Saturday, September 24, 2011

Career Review: R.E.M. Remembered

If my last post about R.E.M.'s disbanding sounded flippant, it was purely reactionary.

Unlike most people, my "love affair" with R.E.M. began just after the height of their popularity in around 1996-7, the time when Bill Berry left the group due to health reasons.

Much had been documented about this and thought I'd better find out what I'd missed apropos their music, as most of my 80's and early 90's was swept up in Prince's funky Purple dance-pop.

In late 96, new management in the office I was working in had this "brilliant" (not) idea of shuffling people around and as a result, many staff found themselves in roles they had no skill-set or aptitude for.  Morale was at an all-time low. 

Then I came across this song from R.E.M.'s back catalog.
"World Leader Pretend" struck a chord deep within me and empowered me to take a gigantic leap of faith.
This one song means more to me than words could convey.

My favourite "era" is when they were a four-piece (1980-97). 
Although Stipe had famously said that a 3-legged dog is still a dog, the band's chemistry had irrevocably changed when Bill bode adieu. 
The combination of Stipe's enigmatic yet emotive vocals, indecipherable and at times decidedly cryptic lyrics; Peter Buck's inventive use of Rickenbacker guitars (He also made mandolins cool again); Mike Mills' memorable bass lines and vocal backing;  Bill Berry's never-excessive drumming and counter-vocals.  Together, the sum was definitely greater than the parts.

I'd never purport to do justice by this band's legacy/impact/import with this short article.
It'd never be possible - nor would it be fair.

Thanks for a spectacular journey.

Take a bow, boys.

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