R.E.M. Perform "Radio Free Europe" (and an Entire Concert)
"Before the hits and long decline, R.E.M. remade Southern rock," argues The American Conservative's A.G. Gancarski — Out of Time. Of the era from which the video selections come, when this blogger was a fan, the author writes:
- The early records—”Murmur” and “Reckoning” specifically—found the band using the vocals of Michael Stipe as just another instrument. He sang with a deliberate indistinctness, forcing repeated listens to figure out exactly what was being sung, much as Kurt Cobain of Nirvana would later do to similarly epic effect. Not that the lyrics were particularly deep: the opacity of the vocals made them seem so, however.
By the time R.E.M. recorded 1985’s “Fables of the Reconstruction” the band was clearly staking its claim to a Southern identity. All true Southerners know what the euphemism “Reconstruction” meant in their region; it was much like today’s “Homeland Security,” Reconstruction in the post-Civil War era was a deliberate appropriation of a word to faciliate an unwanted reinvention of a culture. Songs like “Can’t Get There From Here” had multiple meanings, but for those from the South, one meaning stood out. Like his listeners, Michael Stipe and R.E.M. understood what it was like to be from nowhere, a spot on the map with one stoplight and two gas stations.
- Best band in the world, they said, in The Atlantic and in other, more downmarket outlets. And I would’ve agreed with them—if we had a time machine that took us back to the waning days of the Reagan administration.... There are those who say, “well, they quit at the right time.” But for others who were with the band as fans, before it became a business, the right time was in fact years if not decades before. For those who loved them first, the band was spent as a creative entity long ago.