"On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points." --Virginia Woolf
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
So I bought the hype, and thus the new R.E.M. album Accelerate the other day. I haven't listened to it yet--except for "Houston," which made me hopeful. I hear it's political though, and marks their "return to greatness." We'll see. I'm skeptical.
All I can say is, they lost me at 2001's Reveal. Maybe it was that the world was not the same after 9/11 and that's what I was feeling. I don't know, but they just barely had me with '96's New Adventures in Hi-Fi. The standout being "E-Bow the Letter" which was one of their finer moments among a whirl of forgettable tracks. Then Reveal came along and that was it, they had officially turned too commercial-sounding, too poppy, too un-College Radio, too un-R.E.M. for me.
But today I would like to commemorate one of my most favorite bands in the world, although I probably haven't admitted it to anyone in over 10 years. Here's to magical, coming-of-age songs like "Nightswimming," "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight," and "Strange Currencies" that make you want to eat popsicles on a big trampoline on a hot summer's day, stay at the fair past dusk, or, perhaps, go nightswimming with a schoolyard crush. Or to mysterious instrumentals like "Rotary Ten," "Zither," or "New Orleans Instrumental No.1" that seem to come straight out of a movie soundtrack. Or should have inspired someone to make a movie, at least.
Or to the just plain fierce, passionate songs like "Orange Crush," "Let Me In," or "Fall On Me." I'll never forget the day I caught an R.E.M. song on "Beverly Hills, 90210." I think it was Dylan who swaggered into the Peach Pitt all James Dean/Rebel Without a Cause-like, threw those quarters into the juke and brooded to "Loosing My Religion." It was hot, and I think it turned a lot of people on to R.E.M.
Here's a list of my favorites, with the exception of a few that could not be found ("Rotary Ten" is on Dead Letter Office and I could listen to that one all day long.)
I am uncommonly mobile; I have circumnavigated the globe eight times, walking amazing distances. Through the South Island of New Zealand to the Southern Alps. From Chile to the Andes in Argentina. Across the Serengeti in Africa. I made 300 ascents of mountains 10,000 ft. tall or more, including the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and Kilimanjaro. I traveled alone, aided only by my porters, sketching volcanos and collecting wildflowers along the way.