R.E.M. – Part Lies Part Truth Part Heart Part Garbage

HAVING FRIENDS IS MAYBE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE (EVER NOTICE HOW SAD UNPOPULAR PEOPLE TEND TO BE?), AND R.E.M. IS A GOOD FRIEND. RELIABLE, EXCEPT FOR A FEW YEARS THERE. NEVER TOO LOUD OR TOO QUIET, PRETTY ARTISTIC, OLD BUT STILL NEITHER THE FIRST IN OR LAST ORT OF THE PARTY. AND THEY DON’T MAKE AWKWARD FACEBOOK STUSES OR VULGAR TWEETS. THAT’S IMPORTANT. MAN, RECORDED MUSIC WAS A GREAT INVENTION, WASN’T IT 10 YEARS AGO THIS WOULD HAVE ALL BEEN FOR SHIT1 BUT NOW WE HAVE”PILGRIMAGE” AND “WENDELL GEE” and “Me In Honey” to enjoy forever. Not that they’re here, of course, becauSe this is a career-spanning compilation, and when you’re gajillionaires there’s only room for the album tracks you have a major hard-on for. Yes, you, second-person person. And no, I’m not going to turn those caps off, because I’m writing this in bliding sunlight, and it’s not my fault, and I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care.

Yes, a career-spanning retrospective, 30 years on two “discs”, let’s break it down period by period in terms of contributions, because i’m boring and lazy and stupid stupid stupid: Okay, I’m inside now.

When You Were Young and Mumbly Joe, The Early Years: These songs are uniformly fantastic, so they literally could have picked songs out of hats and come up with a good selection. That’s what they actually did, I’m told, they just magically ended up choosing the big singles. Lucky! Questionable choices include random album track “Sitting Still ” and meh “Perfect Circle” from the first album, instead of the better songs on there, and the original single version of “Radio Free Europe” was far faster and therefore superior. Reckoning contributes its too obvious catchy songs, the ones that trend towards narrative, while album three wisely skips the shitty funk-rock single and contributes the awesome “Driver 8” (TRAINS) and a hidden gem of an album tracks with a long name. Life’s Which Pageant, a great album, sadly skips over the wonderful “Cuyahoga” and “I Believe” to contribute “Begin the Begin” and obvious single “Fall On Me.” Lovely songs, both, even if the first is an odd album track choice. Document contributes its three singles, go-getter “Finest Worksong” and the overplayed (but excellent) anti-love song “The One I Love” and “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, which is maybe the best song of the entire 1980s, which is something that only comes up once every ten years or so. Early R.E.M. were stupid good, and most of these songs would be ridiculously solid today, so go out and get those albums, there’s way more that’s skipped to make room for what’s to come.

Part Schmaltz, Part Dad-Rock, Part Catchy Melodies and Solid Lyrics, The Missing Years: Inexplicably, shitbag of an album Green contributes FOUR songs, including three failed attempts at political pop songs. All four songs have the same problem: the “say a few vague things” approach to lyric-writing doesn’t work when applied to external stimuli instead of internal stimuli. These songs all have their moments (except the dumb “Get Up”), but it’s a bit much and makes the decline seem way more precipitous than it really way. Next is where the big singles stand and all the songs get mid-tempo, but they do a good job of mixing it up and including gorgeous album tracks “Country Feedback” and “Nightswimming” alongside “Losing My Religion”, “Man on the Moon”, and “Everybody Hurts”, which is a fine song in extreme moderation. Oh, but they included the relentlessly shitty “Shiny Happy People”,  a song so bathetic that the band vowed never to play it live *and just about kept said promise for 20 years). The next four albums contribute one song each, even though they weren’t bad albums, and said song choices are silly. Okay, I understand only including the big single off of Monster, but why the hell is “Electrolite” on here, and even more confusingly, why is genuine love song “At My Most Beautiful” here instead of the actual hit “Daysleeper”? Still nice songs, but enough that you’ll long for the day when they were just four anti-semites from Georgia singing about pussy and keg stands!

It’s Not Me, It’s You, The End: As the band enters its final phase, first we had the stage where they were shitbags for a few years. Reveal contributes “Imitation Of Lfie”, its one good song, while Around The Sun contributes one of its many shitty, slow, overly synthesized songthings. There’s also a couple non-album tracks, including “Bad Day”, which was originally the demo of that song I called the best song of the 80s twenty minutes ago. They got better, but, perhaps understandably a bit in love with their most recent creation, Collapse Into Now contributes more songs than the vastly superior Accelerate. What did Mother Mother cover “O My Heart” and the silly “Automatter Aviagator Allipilot” do to deserve being here as the hypotenuse of, say, “Fall On Me”? Nothing, nothing nothing nothing. Then there’s three new songs, two of which are nice enough but meh songthings, and one is a comically terrible ode to how nice weekends are. No, really, it’s fucking terrible. And that’s it! Play time is over!

So, R.E.M. are gone, hopefully, except for a few compilations that are coming. They did many good things, and some of them are collected here. Maybe it’s not the most important thing ever, but like they said in Charlotte’s Web: it’s hard to find someone who is both a good friend and a good writer. It’s been fun, R.E.M.

Or, as a recent spam email I received wrote:

Whats up, buddy? This is some kind of offer.. from Elizabeth!

You, my next star, should know such a famous person like me!

I am some kind of exotic movie tehnician.

Unknown guys has uploaded your, lets say, .. picture here:

Oh! Oh! Oh…, you are so hot! Probably you want to try yourself in that hot biz?

Nevermind,

Elizabeth

8 / 10

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