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September 22, 2011



I'm afraid I can't buy the idea that early good REM = pop and later bad REM = rock. It's all rock, and all rock is pop anyway.

My own favourite REM LPs are Life's Rich Pageant and Document. One thing that one can confidently say about these records is that they are rock records. Indeed they're rock records in a remarkably traditional, crashing hi-hat, riffola kind of way. The DEAD LETTER OFFICE covers make clear how REM enjoyed playing with rock - an Aerosmith cover, for instance.

I agree with you about the achievement of the early records, how they pulled things together and created their own enigmatic world that had its own authority and appeal; the half-heard words being part of that.

I also fundamentally share your sense of the better and worse periods of their career - there's no doubt that the 1980s work is what remains special and everything after is somehow on a slide down, however good. But I don't think it can be 'easy to be dismissive of R.E.M.', as they achieved more than most of us ever will.

In the first line of your review, should 'decade' say 'century'?


thanks for the heads up about the decade/century faux pas. I have changed it now :)

You are of course right in saying that the early REM is as 'rock' as the later material, but you know how fickle I am with my definitions so for me they are resolutely Pop (i.e. 'my' Pop).

The ease of dismissal is real. I know many people who dismiss them so. Perhaps in the same way that I am so easily dismissive of The Beatles for example. Yes, by some criteria they achieved much, but that doesn't mean I can't say 'i really don't care' or 'according to *my* criteria they really didn't achieve much at all'.

As for my favourite, I think it's probably still 'Fables'.


but when they say they're no more, aren't they just saying they won't do macro festival gigs for two or three summers?


I don't think they'll be back as soon as that.

Duke, you like the Stones - just as I do; an appreciation that I appreciate. I wonder whether you think they are not a rock band? 'Street Fighting Years' sounds pretty rock to me. Of course they have also been an R&B band - unlike The Who for instance, who really did manage to be emphatically 'pop' and 'rock' at the same time (?).


Now look who's casually mistyping things: 'Street Fighting Man', man.

Never sure what Simple Minds meant by half-reviving that phrase, though believe it or not I was fond of their track. It was probably rock music.


Another special aspect of early REM was the Southern Gothic angle. One of the first things I read about them was a review of Chronic Town in CREEM that ended with a quote from the Flannery O'Connor short story "A Circle in the Fire". This was a compelling connection that they cultivated for the first three or four records. It was also probably the first place I had heard of Flannery O'Connor.

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