Sunday, September 25, 2011

What The Breakup Of REM Means, Part 1

By now you have heard I'm sure about the breakup of REM. For me I have had differing emotions about this everyday since. Sometimes these moments are totally opposite one another.

Over at the brilliant and essential The Ever Circling Skeleton Family, some of those tangled emotions have been distilled in a superb post discussing the staggering song Country Feedback:

I think it’s a song like this, like “Country Feedback,” that highlights a part of R.E.M.’s contribution to music, life, everything. I think I’ve said it before even on this page. But there that song is, mammoth, untouchable. Completely inscrutable, but also the most welcoming and understandable set of emotions put to words. Resignation, weariness in a set of words, in every note, every repetition of that chord sequence. But then that resignation and weariness is informed by what could only be love. And that’s all from a line like “you come to me with a bone in your hand.”

Michael Stipe heard characters in his band’s songs, found those characters, became them. For three minutes at a time, he was someone else, and when we listened, we knew those characters like old friends.

The way this band worked together to allow that kind of, I don’t know, magic was amazing. I’m excited, in a way, for the rest of the week, because I’ve already read some great pieces about the band, and I’m sure there’ll be a few more. I’m going to be thinking about it, certainly.

But “Country Feedback.” Just watch that video, and you’ll be devastated by it. The moment for me, in that particular version (from the “Road Movie” tour film), comes around 4:48, when Michael Stipe just sits down on the stage, letting the song flow around him. He’s done his part in that story. The shot of his profile with the projected house in the background is perfect and beautiful.

And now I’m sitting here thinking of a friend who just died, prematurely and tragically, and remembering that this song hinges on the line “it’s crazy what you could have had.” It’s a sad case of “song meaning something different to you” as there ever could be, I guess.

Well, I need this.

I need this.

This, is extremely accurate. Look for What The Breakup of REM Means, Part 2 in the next few days, and a Part 3 featuring my Top 25 REM Songs Of All Time. In the meantime, enjoy listening to their old albums. I am.