Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
As you might have guessed from the month long intermission, I wasn't especially stoked to go through the final phase of REM. Up came out during my Must Buy Every CD From Every Artist I Love phase of my 20s, and I listened to it repeatedly, trying to will myself to like it more. I had recently transitioned out of working in a record store an into working in a chocolate store, and had also started blogging / sending out e-newsletters to fans. My very first one mentioned listening to this album while waiting for a manager to unlock the shop. I believe I referenced trying to slit my wrists with a crisply folded dollar bill.
The blogs got happier.
The REM albums did not. Reveal never appealed to me. I bought it, I listened to if a couple of times, and then I forgot about it. So much so, that it turns out that I never uploaded it to my computer, and have just now realized that there are no tracks from that album at all represented here. That's ... fine. I do remember enjoying "All The Way To Reno", as well as "Bad Day" from their Greatest Hits around this time. But I didn't miss them when I put this together, so I'm not going to redo the album.
I thought Around The Sun was okay, but it felt like the way I feel when I'm done writing something, feel content, then look at it and think "Oh God, I've already written this before. And I wrote it much better back then." It feels a bit like a B or C-side release.
I appreciated Accelerate's return to early REM rock sound, but after a few tracks, the songs started to sound the same, just A Better Same than the previous two albums. And while I've included some songs from that album that I really enjoy listening to, I couldn't quote a single lyric.
I didn't even know Collapse Into Now had come out, nevermind that it was the band's final album, until one of the songs came up on a friend's playlist in the car. This is no fault of REM, 2011 was not my favorite year. But Collapse Into Now, while never going to be in contention for my favorite REM album, certainly felt more like one of their classic albums than the preceding three.
I don't want to give the impression that this reimagined album doesn't have its own unique sound. It does. I think it holds together nicely, and I like it much better than I imagined I would. But most of my descriptions are going to be talking about which previous album I think it would fit well on. This is both an attempt to be helpful to REM fans who couldn't stick with it, and also as a bit of an homage to their final album, which was a deliberate attempt to revisit certain eras of their history. I thought that was a cool conceit.
REM came back soft and grieving from their diminishing. Reviewers dubbed their new sound "keyboard farts" and it was easy to hear the whole album as a dirge. I don't want that feel. So I'm starting with one of my favorite rockers from their later work, Horse To Water. It's got the upbeat guitar of Monster if you squeegeed all the grunge off and tried to toss it gently back to Fables Of The Reconstruction.
Alligator, Aviator, Autopilot, Antimatter is "Shiny, Happy, People" if it didn't suck. The lyrics are delightfully early REM, the background vocals are punk rock, the guitars have picked up a little bit of the grunge that was shed from the previous track. It's fast, loud, and joyous, without feeling cloying. I guess if I were going to put it on an earlier REM album, I would have to slice it in half Solomon style, and send it back to Green and Chronic Town.
Those two tracks were heavily influenced by their earliest work, but as I mentioned, their first two post-Berry era albums were more Automatic For The People / New Adventures In Hi-Fi but with drum machines and keyboards. It's not my favorite era by a long stretch, but there were some good tracks on those albums, including Electron Blue. Stipe's vocals are further up in the mix on these first two albums, which I quite enjoy. I understand that pushing his vocals back make the rock tracks feel more retro, but I enjoy how the reverb on vocals like this one make you feel like you're at a concert, and the vocals are hitting you at different times from different speakers.
Outsiders is a song that just sounds like the album it's from, Around The Sun. Doubled vocals and Stipe harmonizing with himself usually doesn't work for me, but he nails it here. There's a breakdown, and then Q-Tip sets down a verse. It's not my favorite rap verse on a rock song by a long stretch, but it's 1,000% better than KRS-One on "Radio Song".
A piano ballad? On an REM album? No. Hollow Man's acoustic piano intro quickly waves back and forth between piano and guitar soft rock. It does sound like a re-recording of something off of Green with better production value.
Blue definitely could have worked from the Automatic For The People era. It's got Stipe doing spoken word over guitar and effects before Patti Smith, who also appeared on "E-Bow The Letter", has her vocals crawl over his poetry.
Crawling is also how Lotus arrives. A wriggly, vocally doubled shimmy that definitely would have felt at home on Automatic For The People. This was the song from Up that made me hold out hope for what would become the slow wind-down of REM's career. It's a sad song about being happy again. Haven't you noticed?
I don't know where I'd put It Happened Today in the spectrum of previous REM albums. Maybe Murmur. Sure Stipe's voice is gruffer, and Buck and Mills are more masterful than jangly, but this track definitely has an experimental flair that a lot of their later work didn't bother with.
A drum track and a jangly guitar and an echoey keyboard set this solidly in Monster territory. Suspicion could be "Tongue"'s mature sibling. It's occasional surfish guitar is also a great feature, a trick that the band rarely uses, but which always feels welcome.
Supernatural Superserious brings the rock guitar back. This song could really have come from almost any REM album except Automatic For The People and Up. It feels like a song they sat on for years, while also sounding 21st century fresh.
We are dropped back into New Adventures In Hi-Fi with Boy In The Well. The acoustic guitar line is fantastic. The drums are played loud, but set back in the mix. The keyboards fade forward and back, while Stipe's vocals sit clearly in the center. A slightly different mix would make this feel ethereal, but I think its refusal to go full Ballad while only having half a foot in rock works really well.
If I were a slightly bigger jerk, Diminished would have been the title track for this album. It works for both quantity of band members, and overall quality for their last four albums. But 3/4 Time is mean enough. This feels very Document to me. I do love the effects laid over strings, and the more prominent than usual bass.
"Diminished" has a false ending and an acoustic hidden track actual ending that works as a perfect bridge to At My Most Beautiful, the piano ballad that "Hollow Man" threatened to be. This is another clear Automatic For The People throwback. The background doo doo doo doo vocals are a perfect accent to another sad song about being happy and in love. This was in consideration for final track of the album, as it, too, has a false ending, and a satisfying fade out. But ...
Discoverer gives us a booming bass drum that has been long absent from REM's catalogue. This is Chronic Town all day and night, and I love it. I didn't want the back half of the album to feel like a complete wind-down, and this is a nice pick up in tempo.
If you don't consider Uberlin, "Drive (Part Two)", then I don't know how to talk to you about this song. It just feels like it's "Drive"'s sequel, if it had been placed on New Adventures In Hi-Fi. It's more uplifting, but it's all about the Hey now that made "Drive" so catchy.
The album closes out with the band's first post-Berry era single, Daysleeper. I didn't know if I liked this song when I first bought the album. I was worried that this Automatic For The People happy maudlin was going to be the new normal for REM, and while it was for a while, they did eventually evolve out of it so much that I found myself really enjoying this song.
Revisiting Automatic For The People was kind of a downer for me. Dreary Music For Teenagers didn't age as well as I'd hoped. And while I still enjoy several of the songs from that album, I don't imagine I'll listen to that album as a whole very much, unless I'm looking for inoffensive background music.
On the other hand, I love this version of New Adventures In Hi-Fi. This is a combination of the two albums that followed Automatic For The People: Monster and New Adventures In Hi-Fi. REM's return to rock. Much harder than their previous three albums, and more interesting than any of their 90s and 21st century output, this album ditched the mandolins and whine for echoey guitars and mellotrons. The lyrics were more in-line with their earlier material, and Stipe appeared to be having more vocal fun.
The reason the two albums that I combined for this Reimagined Album work so well is because the original New Adventures In Hi-Fi is actually just a series of songs recorded during the sound checks for the tour they did in support of Monster. Of course they're of the same ilk.
These are also the two albums that I once owned the fancy hardcover collectors editions of. The first I bought in a Greenfield music store when I was in high school, the second I ordered from behind the counter when I worked at a music store on Cape Cod.
I'd planned on posting this a day earlier, but there was a static noise near the middle of "Bittersweet Me", and when I went to fix it, it somehow added about half a second of silence to every track from 'What's The Frequency Kenneth?" all the way to the end, so I had to de-glitch this starting with "Wake Up Bomb". It was worth it, even if it took over an hour to remove clicks caused by a >1 second sound issue.
To balance out the Vaseline-lensed balladry of Automatic For The People, REM released Monster, a fuzzy guitar album that I bought the day it was released. It's fine. Their following album, New Adventures In Hi-Fi was a better blend of rock and the new REM sound. I got an early copy of it, as I was working in a record store when it came out. This reimagined New Adventures In Hi-Fi is meant to honor the band's desire to shake off the aura of Automatic For The People, so it starts with Departure a more modern rock guitar sound but a more old-school Stipe vocal. If this version of this album, instead out of Out Of Time had come out after Green, I think REM would have been an even bigger band in the 90s.
Crush With Eyeliner has Lou Reed's cigarette ashy bootprints all over it. I love the echoey guitar riff, and the effect that makes it sound like Stipe is singing through a megaphone (which was an absolute cliche in the 90s). I also really love the line She's a sad tomato.
I just really love the piano and whistle combination on How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us. The vocals are also good, but, apart from the chorus, I've never really listened to the lyrics.
I also can't say that I love Jesus but I do really enjoy New Test Leper. It's one of my favorite musical contrapuntals. It's a weird little song about talk shows and their hosts' relationships with their guests and reality. What a sad parade.
Like Until The End Of The World and Singles, The Coneheads is a 1990s soundtrack that I much prefer to the movie it came from. There was a great Red Hot Chili Peppers song ("Soul To Squeeze"), and It's A Free World Baby, which, while recorded during the Out Of Time sessions, fits much better in this echoey guitar album.
Bang And Blame seems like the updated version of "It's A Free World Baby" based purely on the guitars. Is it about a closeted celebrity Stipe used to fling with? Almost definitely. But it's not my thing / so let it go.
Electrolite is an almost Radioheadish composed country piano track. (Radiohead has, in fact, covered the song. And the two bands have toured together and heavily influenced one another.) Its spare but reference-heavy lyrics have Yorke's writing flair, and the background vocals sound Yorkeish.
In contrast with Bono's not very good cover of "Hallelujah", we come to our second Leonard Cohen song in these reimagined discographies. This time it's the wonderful First We Take Manhattan. I heard it as the B-side to "Drive", and was excited to see it pop up on a Leonard Cohen tribute album. This is my second favorite Cohen cover of all-time. And I have heard several
albums' worth of Cohen covers in my day.
Tongue was my favorite song on the album when I went home and listened to Monster. This is not at all proportionate with my love of the song's subject, cunnilingus. This is also the most falsetto song in any of the reimagined discographies since Prince. It's a solid and impressive falsetto performance. But it ain't Prince.
I look good in a glass hat but the rest of the fashion mentioned in Wake Up Bomb don't really suit me. This is another return to old school REM with Stipe's vocals being reasonably low tenor and inconsistent, which suits the song just fine.
The first single from this album was meant to let you know that this was Not Automatic For The People. I don't think it will be controversial to say that What's The Frequency Kenneth?, this echoey guitar song is the finest piece of music to ever come out of a disturbed person's brutal attack of television journalist Dan Rather.
Things wind down near the end of "What's The Frequency" and give way to Bittersweet Me which moves across the room with a heart full of gloom. There's a cool mellotron in the background the plays off the *checks notes*, echoey guitar.
A countdown brings us to the Southern American/Spaghetti-Western Italian Zither. A nice, brief instrumental, akin to "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" but not as sleepy. The guitar here is more surfey than echoey, making this the R.E.M. song most likely to end up in a Tarantino film.
Crunching out of the end of "Zither" is E-Bow The Letter, a haunting song that features Patti Smith on background vocals. This came out in the same general time as Metallica's "The Memory Remains", which featured Marianne Faithful on background vocals. Though no one involved in any of these projects sounds like anyone else, I often see "The Memory Remains" video in my head, whenever I hear "E-Bow The Letter".
For an album that started with "Departure", it's taken us a long time to get to Leave, the final song on the album.
One of the major subjective biases of this project where I recreate different artists' catalogue is When I First Heard A Particular Album. Sure, now that I'm in my 40s, I can acknowledge that an album I loved when I was sixteen might be garbage. But I might include more songs on an album that hit when I was more musically vulnerable to schmaltz.
Which is mostly to say that I didn't edit out "Everybody Hurts" from this album, even though it's one of the schmaltziest, over-the-top ballads from the nineties, a decade made of extravagant, over-the-top ballads. I don't even particularly like the song, and it was never one of my favorite tracks on this, one of my Favorite Albums Ever the year it came out. I was a teacher's aid to fourth graders when this song came out, and even They made fun of the lyrical delivery on the song. But it has enough legs to be the go-to-tune for ironic sadness, so I'm going to let it live here, in the same discography where I cut "Shiny, Happy People" for, essentially, having precisely contrary lyrics to "Everybody Hurts" but ultimately having the same meaning.
If there's an orchestral intro, I pretty much have to use that as a starting point, even if its just musicians tuning up, hence Nightswimming is the first track. I once started singing this song in the most on-the-nose way (although we were not naked) by singing it while swimming in Lawrence Pond with a few fellow camp counselors until one of them dunked me under water. I resurfaced a few feet away, and continued singing. This is just one of the reasons my coworkers probably hated me. The combination of the piano and the strings on this song are such a departure from previous albums that it's a good Oh Hey We've Got A New Sound announcement. Even if that new sound is a home on adult contemporary soft rock radio.
Try Not To Breathe does not rock any harder. In fact, this was one of the few albums listened to in high school that my parents liked. Which might be why almost no one younger than my age group thinks of REM as a rock band. This particular song comes off as an endearing high school musical number by a kid who can't sing particularly well but can sort of hold a tune. I think the slight background vocals are the best part of the song, which is pretty rare for an REM track.
(Part of the reason I spent nearly a week before posting this is because I didn't like the transition between these two tracks, and spent hours trying to fix it. I eventually worked it out by cutting some of the intro from "Sidewinder".)
Feel free to hate The Sidewinder Sleeps On Its Back with its unnecessary falsetto and it's unironic mentioning of payphones, which didn't know they were soon to be on the endangered species list. A song about being hung up on by someone being annoyed at a late night phone call is frivolous in a way that doesn't seem as cloying as some other silly REM songs. A friend of mine mistook the lyrics only to wake her up as only Terwilliker, the evil piano teacher from The 5000 Fingers Of Doctor T, a lovely live action movie by Dr. Seuss. I'm grateful for his mishearing, as without it, I might never seen that wonderful little film.
Drive was the original single, and lead-off song of the real version of Automatic For The People, and it's easy to see why. It's one of the only songs from the album that I could imagine being on Green or Out Of Time. It's not nearly as good a song as I imagined as a teenager. I don't have much nostalgia for this monotone dirge. While this was definitely my favorite R.E.M. album growing up, it's probably not even in the top five ... maybe ten looking at it through the lens of their whole discography. None of it is bad, it's all just sort of ... deliberately lifeless in a way that makes me think of these songs being used in Made For TV Movie.
I much prefer the cello of Automatic For The People to the mandolins of Out Of Time, but Sweetness Follows is still more of a song to put on in the background if you're trying to make out with someone in 1994 than a rock song. But, bad news, once you put on this song, they are totally not making out with you.
The only slightly rock song on the whole album is Ignoreland. It sounds like it could come out of their IRS years, meaning it's pretty poorly recorded, and difficult to understand Stipe's lyrics. Said lyrics are much more overtly political than other songs from this album or the two that envelope it. And, yet, due to the fact that it sounds like he recorded it through a dying amp, you can't really tell what he's singing about.
Here is the song by REM that gets the most hate. And while, again, Everybody Hurts is not my least favorite song, it is definitely the song that your aunt Nicole cried along to when her first and second and third boyfriends broke up with her. And anyone who knew she did this rolled their eyes and never mentioned it to her. But definitely told the person she broke up with. Nicole's friends were jerks.
New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 is like listening to a river float by your window while you're moderately tipsy.
I don't advocate ever playing Twister or Risk, and I don't believe in Heaven, so Man On The Moon isn't my theme song. The best thing to come out of this song, for me, personally, was that I learned who Andy Kaufman was. If only there had been a more accessible internet at the time, I could have watched videos of him to get a better understanding that, despite some of his epic contributions to pop culture, I probably would have found him more annoying than interesting. I have not seen the Jim Carrey movie about him that shares a title with this song. Sanity willing, I will die without ever having seen it.
I bought the Until The End Of The World soundtrack because it had U2 on it, and I was just falling down the rabbit hole of U2 fandom that led them to being the first Reimagined Discography that I posted. I love the album. It's how I first came to know of Neneh Cherry, Nick Cave, and Crime And The City Solution, and got a better understanding of KD Lang, Lou Reed, and The Talking Heads. Fretless is from that soundtrack, and it's a shame that it didn't make the real version of Automatic For The People as it has the right feel for the album, but has better lyrics.
The Lion Sleeps Tonite is such a great B-side cover. It's so on-the-nose and Muppety. I'm pretty sure I used this song to torture my roommate, later neighbor, in high school. Both by playing it, and occasionally singing along with it.
If you like Find The River, do yourself a favor and check out the song in its original form, "Stay" by Lisa Loeb. It's peppier, and wears more stylish glasses. This is still a solid song, even though it was the band's Worn Out Welcome single, being the first single since their Green album that they released that didn't make the Billboard Top 40.
I'd never really listened to the lyrics to Monty Got A Real Deal, and just took a friend's word for it when he mentioned that it was probably about Monty Hall. It's ... uhhh ... not. This is actually a cool little song about sexuality in the mid-twentieth century written very poetically, but it's neither a scorcher nor a catchy torch song, so it's easy to overlook it.
Star Me Kitten is very much the outro to a movie soundtrack, and works as a cool closer here.
In 1988, REM, the darling of the college radio airwaves signed a massive contract with Warner Brothers records, which gave them complete creative freedom over all of their albums. They responded by releasing the dullest two albums they made in the twentieth century.
Sure, Green had a couple of hits, and Out Of Time gave them mainstream radio supremacy for a couple of years, but overall, each album felt like a few singles and B-sides thrown together for no reason.
The writing on Green is, compared to all their previous albums, atrocious. They gave up on imagery for straight-forward political chants, and it didn't work. While the lyrical content vastly improved for Out Of Time, and the mandolins and other string instruments went from "a thing we're experimenting with" to "the driving force of an album", it still didn't hold up for me.
In some sense, I think both "Radio Song" and "Shiny Happy People" were attempts to recreate "The One I Love" by making poppy sounding music with upbeat lyrics that were dripping with irony that most radio DJs and music fans wouldn't get. For me, they both failed, and I can't listen to them. Even with my favorite B-52 doing the background vocals for "Shiny Happy People", it's just too saccharine for me. And while I'm pretty sure I'd hate "Radio Song" even if it didn't have a pedophile-apologist, wannabe-prophet as its guest rapper, it sure is easier to hate knowing that KRS-One is involved. Neither song, even though they were radio hits, are on this album.
I have managed to put "Stand" on, even though it was the theme song to one of the worst television shows ever aired, "Get A Life".
I had a couple of previous versions of this reimagined album that was merely, Out Of Time. But I didn't like the flow, so I spent some time rearranging the tracks, and the idea of "Belong" being the focus of the album, with all other tracks referencing that story really appealed to me. So, instead of a mix of songs that I somewhat enjoy, this is a concept album about parental relationships after a politically divisive apocalypse. It might involve fish people. I'm not sure.
World Leader Pretend gives us a preview of R.E.M.'s more countrified sound. It still has the feel of early R.E.M. but there's a pedal steel guitar wonnnnnnnnnnng that comes in from time to time that hints at the musical changes taking place on this album. The lyrics could fit well, thematically, on Document, though they're a bit too straight-forward. They also foreshadow that something pretty terrible is about to happen.
Stipe transitions us into a love poem, while using the same basic imagery from the first track, in Belong. This is a weird little fable about using the word belong as a spell to keep her child alive and apart from whatever drastic world change she heard about before she folded the newspaper and silenced the radio.
The woman from "Belong" has left her child behind to be with her people overseas. She, and a group of her friends, are singing this very contradictory song, Orange Crush, to her child, who is older now, and who she hasn't heard anything about in years. There is a political chanting breakdown in the middle of this song that reinforces that something awful happened in "World Leader Pretend' that has broken up families, and insinuates that it may have changed the way humans have evolved.
There's a little bit of a calliope break, and then we move to see the son from "Belong", who is starting to see cracks in the capitalist, suburban society he's been living in. Every sign he sees advises him to Stand in the place where he lives and works. But his interior voice is suggesting that he needs to leave and start questioning everything around him.
Texarkana is the place where the mother has ended up. Because some people would need an apocalyptic scenario to take place before they ended up in Arkansas. This song mentions the stars falling out of the sky. Metaphor? Or is this scenario as science-fiction based as "Belong" suggests?
Joy! The mother and son are reunited, and he sort of recognizes her. But what on earth will they talk about? Pop Song 89 suggests the weather, the government, and a few other options. Sadly, she is on her deathbed, and occasionally loses coherency, and apologizes to the man she is no longer sure is her son.
Losing My Religion is a pretty straight-forward ballad. The son is losing his faith as his dying mother doesn't recognize him. He has work to do for the revolution, but he also wants to stay near his mother before she passes. This song is delivered to a doctor who may not share the son's political affiliations.
The doctor the son has been confessing to has fallen in love with him, and they are spending a ton of time together both in and out of the hospital, but she knows she's going to have to report him to the authorities. But, damn, yo, the sex is great. It gets her Near Wild Heaven.
Me In Honey is the son's response to finding out the doctor narced on him, and he has to go on the run again. (If Stipe plays the son, then Kate Pierson from the B-52s plays the doctor).
Country Feedback is the two lovers trying to come to sort of agreement as to whether or not to have a relationship. But in the end, the doctor kills him and just keeps repeating It's crazy what we could have had / I need this.
We close out the musical (the dark political sci-fi apocalypse musical starring 80s musicians) with Low, a rumination from the child who was born from the doctor and the son's relationship. His world is subterranean because his mom's side won, and pretty much destroyed the world. He's been the narrator (though this is his first song) for the whole show. This last track is sung through some sort of mask that allows him to go up to the surface, where he's visiting his mother's grave. In many ways, he feels as abandoned as his father had. His mother didn't leave him physically behind anywhere, but her feelings for his father and her role in his death made her distant.
I really wanted to call the second album in the discography, Fables Of The Reconstruction, but I'd really stripped that album for Murmur, and there's not a ton of material here relevant to the Post-American Civil War Reconstruction.
This is a decidedly more political album than the first, though it's not as didactic and potentially off-putting as the Rock The Vote era R.E.M. Instead, it uses images and language in such a way that, over thirty years later, people still find the Document-era R.E.M. to be politically relevant.
Probably the best opening track in the band's history, The Finest Worksong is a nearly perfect example of how the band could take bright instrumentation in a minor key, drape non-traditional narrative lyrics around it, and arrange unusual but not challenging background vocals to enhance Stipe's voice. It really was the finest hour.
That's great it starts with an earthquake, and it follows it up with Stipe's fastest lyrical gatling gun. Imagine if Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire", instead of being a shitty middle aged turd blaming his parents' generation for all of the world's problems, was a guy nearing thirty, trying to come to terms with world events and why he isn't doing anything to change them. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) is probably the most lyrically brilliant thing Stipe ever penned. I'm pretty sure that's a consensus opinion, though.
Swan Swan H is more Murmur style lyrics, but delivered clearly. I mean that both in the way that you can hear Stipe articulate the words, and that the message is evident, even though it's still told with more focus on imagery than the traditional pedantic narrative of rock.
While we're talking about non-traditional lyrics painting a clear story, Begin The Begin, the opening track from Life's Rich Pageant, advises the listener to follow the leader, run and turn into butter. If you ever want to give yourself an aneurysm, go to SongMeanings.com, type in any REM song, and read what various people think Stipe is trying to say (especially fun when it's a song that Stipe didn't write the lyrics for).
Carnival Of Sort (Boxcars) probably should have been on Murmur, not just because it's a very early R.E.M. song, but also because the lyrics are difficult to decipher. The calliope intro and laughing outro make this one of the band's creepier efforts.
We uplift a bit for I Believe. Musically, not lyrically. My inane interpretation of this song, were I to make a video of this song, would focus on a terminally ill kid who is housebound, but not bedridden, mostly seeing a surreal world outside his window, reading a ton of books, and being visited by an assortment of normal looking family members and creepy doctors wearing horrifying masks and blood soaked scrubs.
I don't usually like to include a song twice, but it's going to happen on this album. The studio version of Time After Time (Annelise) has some cool background effects, and the drums sit at such a weird place in the mix that it almost sounds like you're listening to one song on Youtube, not realizing that you have another tab open, and it's playing something that complements the song, but feels as though it doesn't actually belong.
My imaginary video for Pretty Persuasion is a man watching other people in a bar pair off into unlikely couples. We see subtitles for their various pickup lines and techniques, all of which are either shockingly bold, or else seem destined for failure. But they all work.
The background vocals for There She Goes make it sound like an early 20th century folk song. I am embarrassed to say that I was completely unfamiliar with the original version by The Velvet Underground. I knew this was a cover but never placed the original until well after I thought of it as an R.E.M. song.
When I was in elementary school, I joined a competition called Future Problem Solvers. The problem we fourth and fifth graders were expected to solve? Acid rain. Someone else in the group found some research (probably with a huge assist from our advisor) about Black Backed Gulls, and how their droppings counteracted the effects of acid rain. As I can't find said research or anything like it online, I'm going to guess it was disproven. But we worked hard on our concept, and we lost to the Home Team (the team representing the school where the competition was held) who thought you could beat acid rain with the power of positive thinking. Well, their approach didn't work, either, but it was good enough to crush our team, and I dropped out of the group before our next meeting. R.E.M.'s solution to the problem sing Don't Fall On Me in the acid rain's general direction, didn't work, either. So I guess Michael Stipe and I have that in common.
Talk About The Passion is the final studio track on the album. It's a highly repetitive anti-prayer, and a passionately sung song about losing passion. It devolves into applause.
The last three tracks are actually a medley. Someone in the audience requests that they sing Time After Time (Annelise), and Stipe starts acapella. The guitar track rises up to meet him and then the background vocals come. The song building itself around him is a really cool effect. There several verses in before Stipe starts singing the chorus to Peter Gabriel's Red Rain, and the audience applauds thinking the song, and perhaps the show, is coming to an end. But, surprise, the opening riff to So Central Rain kicks in and ... there's no percussion in this track, anywhere to be found. Was Bill Berry in the bathroom? ... then strings it back into "Red Rain". It's a really beautiful journey.