December 05, 2004

The Great REM Album Review: Part III

Well here it finally is. After an enforced sabbatical - due to over-tiredness, can't-be-botherednesss, and somebody-else-is-using-the-computer-alotness - here is the third installment in my REM album review thing.

It's their third one, 'Fables Of The Reconstruction', and it's one of my faves. If it ends up with an implausibly high mark then at least you'll understand.

Also, as explained previously, we shall have all REM's track 2's today, reviewed separately and scored in a Top 10 style. Except there's thirteen of them. Hmm. I did it before and it made sense then so in all probability it will make sense here.

Quiet at the back please.

Fables Of The Reconstruction (1985)

1. Feeling Gravity's Pull
Nice dark and twisted way to start. Cool guitar track. Ominous drums. A bit of cello (woo!!!). Soft middle bit, that tenderises you in preparation for getting all nasty again. Good lyrics for a change. Arty allusions ("Man Ray kind of sky"?). Very good all in all, and despite it being half eleven on a Sunday morning I'm jolly pleased! (8/10)

2. Maps And Legends
Everything gets countryish from here on in. It's like they spent a year on an Indian reservation or something. But that's good! This is more straightforward and pleasantly plump. Nothing too leftfield after that first one, but still good. The world's not bowing down at their feet yet, but this is the kind of track that signifies that maybe they're finding it easy to write very good songs. But they still sound a bit bored. (6.5/10)

3. Driver 8
Aww! The bunny just yawned! I'm not yawning though, this is fucking great. One of the best songs so far out of all that I've listened to. Not sure what it's about (a train driver perhaps?) but who cares when it's this funky. I'll be singing this all week. (9/10)

4. Life And How To Live It
Shit. This is good as well. A slow and quiet intro is always a good sign. Crackingly fast-paced with yet another brilliant guitar track. I love you Peter Buck. Shouty bit in the chorus that makes you want to join in, and all in all, everyone sounds like they're having a right good time. Oh, and very deep and meaningful title. I might mark this down cos they sound just a bit too bloody happy.
Or maybe not. (8/10)

5. Old Man Kensey
Inoffensive and good, but I can't say I'm particularly bothered about some old man. Dodgy lyrics about wanting to be a clown. I'm not one to upset the apple cart, but this is dull. Boo!! Hiss!! (5.5/10)

6. Can't Get There From Here
Funk workout, is the only way to describe this. A bit silly, and Stipey's trying to sound like Barry White. Yet despite these negative issues this is still good. A sing-along type number methinks, and probably great live, and yes, it has lots of good bits, but I'm not paid to be a fawning REM-loving critic godammit! A tad too Isley Brothers-ish for my liking, and the ending is stupid. (6/10)

7. Green Grow The Rushes
Trad-rock number eh? Very scenic round these parts isn't it? A song about a pond. Maybe not. I very much like the end bit; kind of makes me wish I could sing, play a guitar, or do anything vaguely useful. Pretty stuff my pretties. (7.5/10)

8. Kohoutek
Not much doing here. Drones along pleasantly enough, but when I say nothing happens, I mean nothing happens. Nothing happens. There are also no lyrics, just some mumbling. Oh, wait, something happened. But that stopped quickly enough. This must finish soon. I look at my watch impatiently. I tap my feet. I give this (5/10) because it's poo.

9. Auctioneer (Another Engine)
This isn't much better. It has a cool gee-tar bit in the middle, but I get the impression they couldn't be fucked to even tune their instruments for this one. Stipe sounds bored. And why do they want another engine? Isn't one enough? (5.5/10)

10. Good Advices
This sounds like it might be crap too, but it has lovely chord transitions (yeah, whatever..) and does a bit more than the last two. A bit like cheese on toast. Very tasty, but essentially bland, meaningless and doesn't last very long. Crumbs. (6.3/10)

11. Wendell Gee
I haven't got a clue what they thought they were doing with this. Boring, boring, boring. I don't care about this Wendell bloke. Yeah, the chorus is very nice, and I'm sure it's all very sentimental, but really, who gives a shit? I don't. This is a shit way to end the album and an ominous sign that this band can definitely produce rubbish songs if they turn their quality control off. Bad bad bad. (3.5/10)

Got pretty bad towards the end there didn't it? My predictions of high scores went straight out the window. Anyway, let's see how it did. 70.8 out of 110. That's only 64.4%! Or 6.4/10 for each track! Cripes. That's worse than the last album. They're shit!! But generally (looking on the bright side) this is not really any worse than 'Reckoning'. They're on the same level. 1% here or there is not indicative of a slide into the abyss. But we'll see. Next up, 'Lifes Rich Pageant'. See you behind the bikesheds for that one.

But first...

It's The Amazing Track-2-athon! Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen.

1. Murmur - Pilgrimage
I gave this one 4 out of 10 before. It's okay, but I'm sticking by my initial, slightly drunken verdict. Generally too daft, with all the two headed cows and what have you. Mmm.

2. Reckoning - 7 Chinese Brothers
I gave this 8 out of 10. Who am I to argue with myself, eh?

3. Fables Of The Reconstruction - Maps And Legends
And lordy, this one I only just reviewed. Funny that. 6.5/10. Yep, I agree.

4. Lifes Rich Pageant - These Days
This is more like it. Rearranging scales! Rockin' in the free world! Angry young men!
I can quite easily imagine myself dancing like a tit to this. If I had been aware of more than Lego in 1986 when this came out, I'd have thought Christmas had come early. Quite simply bonzer. Mate.

5. Document - Welcome To The Occupation
Sounds a bit serious. You know, political and shit.. They're chaps in their late twenties, what do you expect? Still, this is pleasingly easy on the ear. Some big words which is good to hear. I'm all for cerebral rock. In fact, this is pretty good. My heartless exterior has been melted and I have decided that life is great, and this isn't a crock of shit!

6. Green - Get Up
This on the other hand...
Nah, just kidding. Bit too poppy for me though. The whole of Green is too poppy really, especially that Stand nonsense. But this is alright, if a bit lightweight. Good tinkly middle break bit, but generally too over-produced and blatantly aimed at selling records and selling world tour tickets for my liking. Mate.

7. Out Of Time - Losing My Religion
Hmm. Difficult this one. A bit too simple and light on ideas.
Quite simply the best thing they've ever done. That could be debated, and I'm sure I will debate this with myself at some point (and anyone else if you want?), but this is wonderful. Romping home in first place, and no, I don't mind giving the game away this early on. Mate.

8. Automatic For The People - Try Not To Breathe
The fight for second place is on! And as Frank Carson would say, this is a cracker. Everything on this album is pretty bloody great. I have to get a dictionary of superlatives. Now you all know what to get me for Christmas! Mike Mills' backing vocals are bee-ootiful, and I know that's not how you spell it. Mate.

9. Monster - Crush With Eyeliner
This album's great too. This is very hard! I like all of them! AHHH!!! Actually, this is better than the last one because he says 'sad tomato'. And they sound like they're having a bit more fun. Probably because they've realised they're really fucking famous. Mate.

10. New Adventures In Hi-Fi - The Wake-Up Bomb
I remember hearing this for the first time in me dads car. I remember it wasn't loud enough. I have it turned up now. This is great live. Quality chorus. Not quite sure what it's about though. Who cares? This... is the good shit. And he threw up when he saw what he'd done. Mate.

11. Up - Lotus
But this is better than the lot of them. This album, for some reason, has just not been regarded. Critics are idiots, cos this is fucking ace. Way different from most of the stuff they'd done before, or have done since. It really sounds like they want to push the envelope and test themselves, and it's easily one of the most memorable things they've ever done. I like this very much (in case you couldn't tell). Mate.

12. Reveal - I've Been High
Interesting. I am enjoying the big pingy noise that is not dissimilar to a ships foghorn after a fight with a vocoder. If you can imagine that. The rest of the song, unfortunately is a bit lacking in ideas. Especially the lyrics. Bit poopy mate.

13. Around The Sun - Electron Blue
Let's listen to this for the second time ever.
I'm listening.
Okay. This is rubbish. It's probably okayish when compared with the rest of the album, but I feel that it's shitness can be encapsulated in this lyric:
"Who am I? I'm just a guy.."
Deep eh? Chas & Dave have written better lines than that, and they're fucking awful. And the problem is the tune is so weak you have no choice but to focus on the lyrics, which are just piss poor. Oh deary deary me.

I'm upset now.

So anyway, the results:

13th - Have a guess. Yep. Electron Blue (Around The Sun)
12th - Pilgrimage (Murmur)
11th - I've Been High (Reveal)
10th - Get Up (Green)
9th - Maps And Legends (Fables Of The Reconstruction)
8th - Welcome To The Occupation (Document)
7th - The Wake-Up Bomb (New Adventures In Hi-Fi)
6th - 7 Chinese Brothers (Reckoning)
5th - These Days (Lifes Rich Pageant)
4th - Try Not To Breathe (Automatic For The People)
3rd - Crush With Eyeliner (Monster)
2nd - Lotus (Up)

And in 1st place...

Losing My Religion (Out Of Time)

Pretty obvious really, in my opinion anyway. Ah sod it, it's my bedtime. And yes, I did say it was half eleven in the morning earlier. I took a long lunch okay? I'm allowed.


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