REM: 40 Watt Revolutions

May 15, 2003

Looking around on Bill Turner’s extremely cool new site “Lists of Bests “, I’m wondering about the musical tastes of people. I agree with most of the Top 10’s, but REM ‘s “Automatic for the People” isn’t as good as their pre-Warner albums on IRS . Automatic was, however, the record that brought them to the general public, but it’s far from their best. Everyone heard of “Losing My Religion”, but they remember “Everybody Hurts”.

In my honest opinion, their first Warner Bros. album, “Green”, was a much better album and “Life’s Rich Pageant” was probably the best (on second thought, it would really be a tie between that and Murmur). I didn’t care for “Document” and their collection of alternate tracks and b-sides, “Dead Letter Office”, is my favorite. The newer collections don’t have that energy and rawness as the older stuff.

They were the standouts from the whole early-mid 80’s Athens scene. Pylon was a big influence on REM, but were more of an underground act than pop act. The B-52’s were probably the first outta Athens only to be eclipsed in later years. Matthew Sweet got his start in the Athens scene, but wound up in the alternative nation of the early-mid 90’s. REM just had that drive and the ultimate hook, college fans, to build a fanbase. (mk – I forgot about Guadalcanal Diary and drivin’ n’ cryin’, they had a couple of minor “hits” and some popularity in the south)

I’ve been disappointed in the recent REM albums. I eagerly purchased their first Berry-less EP, UP!, based on the first single “Lotus”, but it was just a drone of ancient beatboxes and less-than-good songs. Reveal was a good album and it showed some progressions in their songwriting and it was just better than Up!.

As you can tell I like the earlier music of REM. It’s what I heard when I was younger and was during a time when people would pass around bootlegs of songs like “One I love’ before it was put down onto a record. I got my first taste of REM from the camp director at the first camp I worked at…at 13. He would play me bootlegs and give me copies of the older stuff…just good music still. Maybe REM can put out another great album, hopefully soon.