Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
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.