R.E.M. – Songs That Are Live

A valuable release, since it’s not as though the last four singles consisted entirely of live songs. Never fear, though, because only two of the songs here (“I Don’t Sleep, I Dream” and “Country Feedback”) are already released on the singles from the album.

Okay, okay, I know, this is a promotional release, and I only own it because “Crush With Eyeliner” and “Tongue” aren’t found in these versions elsewhere, and because I used to be an obsessive teen with a thing for collecting singles. It’s true! I used to make lists of all the versions of all the songs a band I liked had ever released (compiled from olde interwebs discography sites) and go about tracking down every stupid remix and live version. I don’t know why I got better; but maybe it’s when I had to start spending my money on rent instead of on CDs. But this is a pretty silly release, regardless of the huge boner it gave me when I found it at the ol’ Vortex records on Yonge just North of Eglinton, then above a book store, likely on my lunch hour, likely after going to the one hot dog stand that sold you a hot dog and pop for $3 (I went there the other day – it’s $3.50 now! Get off my lawn!), and even the packaging is a bit odd. The advertised song is “Crush With Eyeliner,” which nobody cares about, and the box of the case brags about the performance of “Country Feedback” being played live for only the second time ever, as if they didn’t rehearse it and play it several hundred times while recording it.

What DOES make this release more worthwhile, other than the collectibility of the CD, is the insight that the stage talk gives you into the songs, despite their perfunctory performances. I don’t think I’d be able to properly describe this experience without just directly quoting Michael Stipe’s brilliant stage banter, so allow me to quote:

(Before “Crush With Eyeliner”, completely unimpressed): Here’s another song.

(Before the oral-sex obsessed “Tongue,” in creepy voice): This song goes out to all the ladies in the audience. This is ladies’ choice.

So that’s just great. But of course, when “Country Feedback” closes the disc you realize just how much better it is than the three Monster songs on here (though in fairness they’re far from the best songs on that album), and you have a warm fuzzy because “Country Feedback” is totes beautiful.

6 / 10

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