R.E.M.embering something special

Elsewhere on the interweb a debate is raging about R.E.M.’s finest offering to date and ‘Murmer’ and ‘Automatic For The People’ are having their usual high showings. However, for me, it’s got to be ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’, a record that became widely regarded as sub-standard for reasons I’ve never quite worked out. Sure, it goes on for a while. But, as that while contains some bloody marvellous music, what’s there to worry about? If it was a James Blunt album that went on for 70 minutes then there’s no defence, but when R.E.M. are cutting loose and doing an album for musos the world over, I say let them get on with it. That said, a James Blunt album of only 1 minute is still 60 seconds too long.
Why ‘New Adventures’? If your life has thus far never been peppered with the joy of ‘Electrolite’, the closing track on the album, you have truly been missing out. Understated, marvellously construced and culminating in a desolate, beguiling refrain of ‘I’m not scared, I’m outta here’, it is as close to perfect as any song I can think of.
There’s plentry more where that came from too. ‘New Test Leper’, ‘The Wake Up Bomb’ and ‘E-Bow The Letter’ are all captivating pieces that do their own things, while ‘Be Mine’ has a wailing chorus that is muffled and yet utterly stunning. And that’s what key to this album – much of it shouldn’t work, but it does.
On a side note – if you have the required kit, track down a copy of the DVD-Audio that has it in 5.1 – well worth a listen. That said, ‘Up’ sounds the best in that format should you care!

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A friend made an observation today that the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys is only a couple of steps away from being George Formby. Try singing ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ in the same voice as ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll never hear that record the same way again.

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