Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
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.