R.E.M. – And I Feel Fine: The Best Of R.E.M. 1982 – 1987

First of all, sorry for all of this. I really mean it. I’m so fucking sorry. Please, find it in your heart to forgive me. I know I don’t deserve it.

Second, Margaret Thatcher was an awful person and we shouldn’t be sad that she’s dead. And I don’t mean because she fought unions or was a member of the Conservative party. No, she was horrible because she supported (at least) the following genocidal dictators: Pol Pot, Suharto, Hussein, Pinochet. She called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and supported apartheid. And one policy point: the fucking poll tax. If you’re not familiar with it, it has little to do with the American Poll Tax, which was essentially a fee collected for voting aimed at suppressing the black vote. No, Thatcher’s Poll Tax was a replacement for property tax that meant that households were taxed based on number of members instead of value of property. Therefore, an apartment of three people making $10,000/year each would pay more tax than a mansion of two people making $100,000 each. Fairness! So nobody should be sad that the witch is dead. And I didn’t even know her! Fookin’ Maggie!

Thirdly, this is yet another compilation, this one a retread of their 80s output spread over two discs, with the second disc comprised of rarities and album tracks. Yes, it is a fast driving two hours with Ari M. to come, so get your hands off your puds and listen!

The good news is that R.E.M. in the 80s were pretty much fucking flawless, so everything here (speaking of the ‘best of’ and not the ‘rarities’) is mighty purdy. Of course, I was as not-alive in 1980-1985 as I likely will be from 2080-2085, so I can’t remember any impact these songs had, but I feel pretty certain that they’ll still be great when I have returned to the loam and maggots eat my Jew eyes. Why? Because they sound fucking amazing but don’t make any sense! So you get to make your own meaning, and boy howdy do they ever meaning to me! That’s only sometimes true, sometimes there’s meaning, but how could the concept of “Gardening At Night” or the crafty folk story “7 Chinese Bros.” go out of style? Its been over thirty years and they (and their ilk of which there are multitudes here) are still wonderful. Such chiming guitars! Such a mellifluous tenor! Such catchy melodies! This is literature set to music, young men and women! It’s way better than that “Everybody Poops” garbage that came later!

I’m not finished yet! “Driver 8” has trains! “So. Central Rain” and “Don’t Go Back To Rockville” have pathos! “Talk About The Passion” has talking about the passion! And that’s not counting the three later hits that will surely have you saying “hey, I’ve heard that song – it’s really good!” as you marvel at how malevolent “The One I Love” is and all the other good stuff when they got obtusely political! And the track list is all mixed up so you never get tired of any album’s style (though you also don’t get a sense of the band’s history! I write with exclamation marks because fuck these are great songs! Golly gee, except where’s “Wendell Gee”? Anyway.

The first “dick” (hee!) has 21 songs, and since there weren’t 21 hits from the time when they lived in their tour vans and shitty Southern apartments, so the list is aided by a bunch of occasionally lesser album tracks, but for the most part they’re just as ding dang good.

The second “dick” also has 21 songs, and these are comprised of a bunch more album tracks (filler!) that are apparently band choices, which is silly but includes the stupendous “Pilgrimage”, then the rarities start! One of them is “Superman”, a single that obviously should’ve been on the best of. Then there are a couple demos of what would go on to be good songs, an oft-released “Live In Studio” “bersion” of “Just a Touch” with extra unnecessary “oooh ooh”s that make Stripes sound super tired, a sentence break. There’s a few rawther grate live songs, an oft-released “Other Mix” of “Finest Worksong” (which I didn’t like much the first time around), and a couple previously unreleased demos that’ll yank your crank until you realize they kinda suck. “Theme From Two Steps Onward” does sound like a demo of the lovely “Good Advices”, so that’s nice. But hay, unreleased tracks! And then a couple more album tracks, including “Time After Time”, just for you, Pavement!

I’m reminded of the good parts of Faulkner when I’m listening to this joy-causing old-timey indie-rock, except that this beats the hell out of reading S&F. It certainly destructifies that one embarrassing essay I once wrote about Dilsey in one night that I got 65% on back in third year. What a shameful exercise that was, I literally feel myself sweating just writing about it now. But really, this is Faulkner, only way the fuck better because four-piece rock band, the scientifically best way to perform songs. The southern gothic, the impressionism, the stream of very particular consciousness.

Oh! Also there’s a ssssslllloooowwww demo of “Gardening At Night” and the original (vastly superior) faster versions of “Radio Free Europe” and “Sitting Still”. And the great lines are too numerous to count “I’m not beating off, you are” for one. Hey, wanna know what I did today? I lost my job! Well that’s not quite accurate; more like my contact wasn’t extended. So I bought a 12-pack of Steam Whistle in mid-afternoon and set myself to drinking it, cancelling on Girlfriend midway through. I’ve got to get over it fast, you see, because tomorrow morning I leave on a road trip to Montreal, to spend the weekend around the very people who chose not to extend me, acting like it isn’t awkward because they’re potential employers in the future. It’s not a complaint about the economy; it’s normal and I really do like my country’s left-wing political party, but AAAAAGGGHHHHH. That is all.

9 / 10


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