FrequentTail

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

R.e.m.

Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s (1990), provides provocative discussions of R.E.M.'s albums from Chronic Town (“every so often a chaotic undertow suggests there's more to their romanticism than Spanish moss”) to Green. Christgau struggles with the lack of literary specificity in the band's lyrics, promotes some understanding of their Southern origins, slightly underrates Fables of the Reconstruction while noting that the album “clinches it: their formal frame of reference is folk-rock,” and uses the crucial word to explain R.E.M.'s appeal for a certain sort of rock-based fan and commentator: “reassuring.” Patricia Romanowski, Holly George-Warren, and Jon Pareles (eds.), The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, revised and updated ed. (1995), pp. 826–827, presents a focused and informed narrative of the band's formation, development, and recording history through the Monster album. Mike Mills, “Our Town,” in Clinton Heylin (ed.), The Penguin Book of Rock & Roll Writing (1992), pp. 401–408, is an essay about Athens written in 1985 by R.E.M.'s bassist. The first sentence—“When you mention ‘the Athens scene' to anyone who's been here for four or five years, they get weird”—accurately establishes both the tone and ambition of the piece.

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