REM broke up yesterday, which means it’s time for a blog post like this I suppose.
The first REM album I heard was Automatic For The People. I was given a lend of it when I was about 14 by my girlfriend at the time and I was fully willing to think they were great in order to make her think I was cool, even though in actual fact I was spending all my time listening to Pennywise and Guns ‘n’ Roses. I didn’t like soft-sounding music, because I had decided I was a rocker, and the closest to indie rock I got was soft rock Thin Lizzy songs and the Nirvana unplugged album. I liked Automatic For The People instantly, though, whether for critically questionable girl-impressing reasons or because it’s that good and I was just about old enough by then to notice.
REM – The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
I gave back the CD and then bought my own. I wore it out and decided it was my favourite album. I sat around in my bedroom considering the apparent fact that albums with twelve tracks are the best albums, and that having an instrumental as track five is the perfect thing to do. My first grandparent died, and I listened to Automatic For The People all the way through that. I knew all the words and all that jazz.
REM – Imitation of Life
The CD eventually scratched and I never replaced it, strangely enough. I wore the album out to the extent that I couldn’t listen to it any more, and I actually didn’t for a few years until I got it off the internet when that started to be a thing. I got more REM albums though. REM were still pretty big around 2003, so I went forwards before I went backwards, getting records that sounded like the idea of REM I had from watching the Imitation of Life video on MTV. I got Monster and Up before I got anything from before Automatic For The People, and I learned the words to those too, even though even the girlfriend thing couldn’t stop me from feeling like Up was a little bit cloyingly emotive.
REM – Daysleeper
I ended up buying every REM album, replacing CD-R copies with real CDs every time a new one came into one of those perpetual sales in HMV or Virgin. I bought secondhand copies of Q, Hot Press and NME with Michael Stipe interview in that downstairs record store on Wicklow Street. I joined an REM forum where I ended up having probably close to 1000 posts before I realised that I probably wasn’t that into comparing bootlegs from 1985.
REM – Letter Never Sent
I got into Jack Kerouac from Michael Stipe talking about him as if he was an unimpeachable poet, and I decided that was true too. I started to tell people that I preferred the 80s stuff because I was coming to realise that that’s what you’re supposed to do, and then I actually started to prefer the 80s stuff. I stopped writing pop punk songs for the band I was in and started to write incredibly dense, half-mumbled things with lines about the redemptive power of bursts of colour and names of philosopher’s I’d only heard of being dropped. Because that’s the kind of thing Michael Stipe did. I was an arsehole as a teenager, if you hadn’t extrapolated that by now.
Pavement – Camera
I got into The Smiths and Joy Division and stuff like that pretty much as a direct result of REM making me feel like a dickhead for ever liking Guns ‘n’ Roses, which then led to all that Canadian indie rock stuff when that happened so, trite as it sounds, I probably wouldn’t have ended up as into music and thinking about music as I ended up being without REM. I even remember being very mildly annoyed at Pavement for that Camera cover once I’d discovered that Pavement existed.
REM – Carnival of Sorts
Anyway, as usual, there’s no real point to this. I really liked REM. I still listen to them occasionally (only the early stuff, you understand) and I guess in certain ways they have a lifetime pass for having been My Favourite Band in a way that not a whole lot of bands have been. Here are some more of my favourite songs by them.
REM – Pilgrimage
REM – Driver 8
REM – Wolves, Lower (faster version)
and my favourite live thing, from Tourfilm:
REM – These Days
For sensible talk about REM, read Lisa Cassidy’s One Week One Band on the IRS era, which is The Early Stuff if you’re 100% greenhorn.