Friday, September 15, 2006

when, exactly, did r.e.m. jump the shark?

after a few days without my spouse, my hours have become so twisted, tangled that they're really not even my own anymore. naps (needed due to lack of sleep the night before) run overtime, which keeps me up until odd hours, and the cycle continues.
today after lunch my body really started barking, saying awful, awful things to me. and it was right.

tried to skip the nap this evening in order to get back on schedule (and watch the season opener of Survivor; then tried to watch Junebug (primarily because Yo La Tengo provided the score and I've got an interview coming up (I assume with Ira) on Tuesday, but I didn't make it past the 45 minute mark. and, as so often happens, woke up when the credits rolled, which thankfully brought me out of a bad dream, and all the bad dreams seem to hold a thematic tie nowadays; tonight a former boyfriend of my spouse's, a guy named Reidling (awful close to reisling, don't you think?), called my cell phone asking to talk to her (no one named Reidling exists, to my knowledge, by the way); the other similarity with the dreams is that my right arm in nearly always completely asleep when I wake, from shoulder on down).

Little Steven stood me up on a phoner yesterday, though I guess he had a good excuse. it seems the Underground Garage tour (featuring The Zombies) is cancelling their two or three Florida dates (it never did appear certain) in favor of a Nashville re-routing. and though I haven't seen any announcements anywhere, I trust that's the case. it's still obviously new news: I was the one who informed one of the bands on the bill.
nevertheless, I won't be spending the weekend writing a feature on the Hollywood, FL tour stop, which'll hopefully make for a more relaxing weekend, an opportunity to catch up on some much, much overdue work, and a guilt-free viewing of the LSU-Auburn game.

also yesterday, down in Athens, reports suggest that R.E.M. made an appearance at the 40 Watt to watch (and participate in) a night of R.E.M. covers before they're inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame this weekend.
"That was probably one of the most fun nights I've ever had," lead Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood is quoted as saying (Patterson and the DBTs and Bobby Bare Jr and The Woggles and Lambchop will all be in New York City (three different venues) this coming Thursday in some sort of accidental "The South Will Rise Again" theme night in Manhattan).
R.E.M. also reportedly recorded (with Bill Berry on drums) this week with local producer David Barbe (a sweetheart of a guy - my sympathies to his Red Sox this season).

so when did the band officially jump the shark?
I'm listening, right this very second, to the brand new And I Feel Fine . . . The Best of the I.R.S. Years compilation, so it certainly wasn't before the Warner Brothers contract.
not that every track holds up exceedingly well.
I mean, I certainly had, at one time at least, much better bootleg material than is included here. and the set is another reminder that the production on Fables of the Reconstruction (not that they should've stayed with Don Dixon and Mitch Easter forever) is pretty damn horrible. of course, that album showed the very first obvious, impossible to ignore cracks in the songwriting armor too.
not everyone agrees, of course. on AMG Buffalo Tom leader Bill Janovitz writes about "Wendell Gee": "For my money, this is still the prettiest R.E.M. song, from a catalog that contains of some of the loveliest songs in pop music."
I think I can name five "prettier" off the top of my head. for starters, "Perfect Circle." "Gardening at Night." "Time After Time (Ann Elise)." "Swan Swan H." "King of Birds." all before the Warners contract (count "Let Me In" if you want to go past the I.R.S. years).
and even though they certainly never ran away from it, "pretty" wasn't really R.E.M.'s thing (good luck finding more than a track or two of the slow tempo stuff on any early years album).
so we may be onto something here, because the pace has recently decreased in recent years.
you can make a case, of course, that the Warners contract was when the band "lost it." after all, their first WB album, Green, contained "I Remember California," undoubtedly R.E.M.'s entry in the category of "What The Fuck Were They Thinking?" (Springsteen's "Mary, Queen of Arkansas" has maintained its position on top of the leader board for over thirty years now).
but likely as not R.E.M. jumped the shark when Bill Berry suffered the aneurysm in Switzerland in 1995. which, unfortunately, was a long, long time ago.

more of my prose is newly available on the World Wide Web: a feature on The Black Keys is now up at Phoenix New Times.

1 comment:

  1. I think you have the timing nailed. I enjoyed everything through and including Monster.