Five Songs by R.E.M.

So, one of the world’s most beloved musical trios with a three-letter acronym for a name is officially no more. But, PMT aside, let’s talk about R.E.M…

Hah! See what I did there?

Seriously though, I kind of feel bad about making a joke like that because I like R.E.M. a lot, and I at best mildly regret the existence of PMT. I apparently have 10 R.E.M. albums in my collection, and that’s not nearly the lot. Today the three members of R.E.M. announced that they are now closed for business. When they announced that they would not be touring their current record Collapse Into Now (which I think is pretty swell), and based on the press they did around its release, I did wonder if maybe they were getting to the end of the line. But then, they made a bunch of video content for the record, filmed studio performances, and lyrics videos and what not.

Still, it was a good old run, 31 years, longer than I’ve been alive. However, this will make today, Thursday the 22nd of September 2011, the first full day of my life that R.E.M. are no longer a band. I know that doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s a slightly weird thought.

There’s probably a sunset off-shot to the left.

Anywhatever, I figured what better way to remember R.E.M. than by resurrecting a dormant feature in which I gather together five related songs. In this case the relation is simply that they are R.E.M. songs, spanning their career, that I really like. Maybe not my all-time favourite R.E.M. songs, and certainly not in any order of preference, but possibly five slightly lesser known tracks I feel like pointing at and saying, “this one goes out to the R.E.M. that I love.”

Letter Never Sent (from Reckoning,1984)

This is a fairly simple song, but with a real catchy uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-ooooooooo-oooooo-ooooooooo chorus. One of the more plainly melodic early tracks.

King of Birds (from Document, 1987)

King of Birds is, I think, a clear sign of the future for R.E.M. hinting strongly at their early 90s style of slow and soft, but still full of the abstract half-mumbled mystique of their 80s output.

Me in Honey (from Out of Time, 1991)

R.E.M. in happy mode. The studio version of this also features Kate Pierson, female vocalist well-known for her contribution to Shiny Happy People. This song is better I think. This one is dripping with sweet, sweet melody.

Electrolite (from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996)

I really appreciate the sentiment here, the Hollywood thing, reflecting on the global cultural explosion of the 20th century. Also, one of the highlights of their various piano-led songs.

Electron Blue (from Around the Sun, 2004)

Around the Sun was not a great record. However, this song is genuinely one of my favourite tracks in their whole career. It’s full of electronics, synths and a digital-sounding piano, and seems to describe a near-future drug dystopia. I find the song’s hook quite haunting for some reason.

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