THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Parts 52-57)

The Robster writes…..

And so we’ve made it – the final chapter. This week we round up the odds and sods of the digital-only singles released in the last few years of R.E.M.‘s existence. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge of stuff, so let’s not hang around…

Back in 2006, between Around The Sun and Accelerate, R.E.M. were asked to contribute a track to Instant Karma, an album of John Lennon covers in aid of Amnesty International’s Campaign to Save Darfur. I never thought of R.E.M. as a band who would cover Lennon, but they decided to take on #9 Dream and don’t make a bad job of it, though they have remained fairly faithful to the original. It was the first of four singles released from the album and it was the second track on the tracklisting. The first? Instant Karma! by U2. I mean, in what universe do R.E.M. follow U2 for fuck’s sake? Even R.E.M. at their worst is better than anything Boner and his pompous chums could ever come up with.

Anyway, #9 Dream was released as a download worldwide on 13th March 2007. Most significantly, the line-up on this track included a certain drummer bearing the name Bill Berry! Yes, the first time he’d featured on an R.E.M. recording since New Adventures in Hi-Fi in 1996. That alone makes this track worth having, doesn’t it?

mp3: R.E.M. -#9 Dream

In addition to the three physical singles released from Accelerate, a couple of digital singles were put out too. In the UK, Until The Day Is Done was chosen. I really like this one. It’s the quietest track on the album, being mainly acoustic-led, and sounds a lot like Low Desert from New Adventures, and a little bit like Drive from AftP. It may not have sounded out of place on either of those records. Released on 14th November 2008, it’s that rarest of things – a digital single with a b-side. Houston is Accelerate’s shortest song, and this version is a bit rough in truth – right from the off there’s a dodgy keyboard chord in there.

mp3: R.E.M. – Until The Day Is Done
mp3: R.E.M. – Houston (single version)

I mentioned last week how Collapse Into Now is rather inconsistent and uneven. Here we get that illustrated perfectly. The first single from the album was released at the tail-end of 2010. It wasn’t a great way to introduce the final record in R.E.M.’s 31 year career. It Happened Today is an embarrassment, Stipe’s lyrics in particular are just dreadful. The opening lines “This is not a parable / This is a terrible / This is a terrible thing” made me wince when I first heard them. But that’s nothing compared to the chorus.

“It happened today / Hooray, hooray
It happened / Hip-hip-hooray.”

From southern poet and storyteller to composer of nursery rhymes for toddlers. What a sad comedown. Before we get 2 minutes in, Stipe appears to give up on the lyrics altogether and the rest of the song is just a choir of vocalists singing ohs and ahs. Apparently Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is in there somewhere.

mp3: R.E.M. – It Happened Today

And yet, the album itself starts with an absolute belter. Discoverer is one of my favourite late-period R.E.M. songs. It was chosen as the album’s FIFTH single, but really ought to have been the first in place of It Happened Today. It’s a huge rousing rocker in a What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? kind of way. Stipe describes this as his first overtly autobiographical song. He’s certainly put himself in a good light.

mp3: R.E.M. – Discoverer

Seven months after Collapse Into Now was unleashed, a brand new, previously unheard song hit the shelves….erm, the digital music sites. Recorded during the Collapse Into Now sessions, it was a song that the band felt should be held over as a parting gift to the fans who had stayed with them. We All Go Back To Where We Belong is a string-laden ballad with some lovely brass turns and a wonderful twangy guitar sound from Peter Buck. It sounds like something Burt Bacharach might have done, but like the album it was Jacknife Lee at the helm.

mp3: R.E.M. – We All Go Back To Where We Belong

Released on 17th October 2011, We All Go Back… featured on the compilation album Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982–2011 and was to be the last time we’d hear new material from R.E.M.

Except…

They love a good charity project you know. In 2019, the band unearthed a lost song to benefit Mercy Corps’ Hurricane Dorian relief and recovery efforts in the Bahamas. Originally recorded for Reveal, Fascinating was on the original master version of the album before being cut at the very last minute. They recorded it again – in the Bahamas – in 2004 for Around The Sun, but once again it never made the final cut.

It’s not one of their better songs in truth, but then when you consider the era it was recorded it’s hardly surprising. To be fair, I like it more than anything on Around The Sun. The band released Fascinating themselves on 12th September 2019 as a one-off single on Bandcamp. While it’s not considered to be their official swan song, it’s worthy enough to be included here.

mp3: R.E.M. -Fascinating

You still here? If so, then JC and I must give a HUUUUUUUUGE thank you to everyone who has endured this series through thick and thin. Extra special thanks to those who left some lovely kind comments. It’s been tough going in parts, but hugely enjoyable.

Which brings me to one last little thing to mention. If, after almost one whole year of R.E.M. Sundays, you still crave more, then as of next week, I will be running a (thankfully much shorter) follow-up series examining those R.E.M. songs that should have been singles. There will be special versions, unreleased b-sides and even cover art for your delectation. I’d love to see you there. You know where I am… http://isthis-thelife.blogspot.com/

JC (with the final words)

I really don’t have all that much to say, except to go on record with an enormous ‘THANK YOU’ to The Robster for his incredible support in making all this possible; similarly, to everyone who has dropped in to add their own thoughts, views and opinions via the comments section, your continued involvement really helped spur the two of us on, giving us the confidence to push ahead with things.  You only need to look back at how tentative we were early on in the series, certainly compared to how we were going about things in the latter stages, to see that we were very much responding to all the things you were saying.

I’ve had a couple of Zoom calls with The Robster recently in which he’s shared with me his plans for the next few weeks for those who might still need that R.E.M. fix, and not only that, but he’s going to get me involved a wee bit further down the line.  So please, tune in to Is This The Life? as I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

As for the Sunday slot on TVV to replace R.E.M?  I think what’s next might put a smile on some faces……. 

 

17 thoughts on “THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Parts 52-57)

  1. Brilliant end to a brilliant series. Top work chaps – can’t wait to see what next Sunday brings!

  2. Sincere thanks to both of you. It’s been an incredibly enjoyable journey – even the low quality releases and the all too common stupifying b-sides – it’s also been consistently informative.

    If you were to tell a teenage me that there are 2 R.E.M. LPs out there (the last two) that he doesn’t own he would have laughed heartily in your face. This will be righted.

    A quality series. Thanks!

  3. So trong are the contributions on this blog it’s a pleasure reading each entry even if the music and/or artist isn’t really ones cup of tea. Great series, I do however confess to look forward to coming Sundays.

  4. Thanks to the both of you for a great series. Look forward to the follow up on The Robster’s site. …….

  5. Standing ovation for you two after such a brilliant and in depth series. I try projects that take a long time and by the end the quality is rubbish, but you two avoided this superbly. Also loved the side contributions by people such as JTFL with his pieces on the videos. All in all it was a magnificent – thank you

  6. Yes, let’s give Jonny a big thank you too. A brilliant addition to the series, I loved his articles. He’s still wrong about Mills and Berry, mind… 😉

  7. A simply glorious series . Fascinating to see the band shift and I’m sticking to my appreciation of the troublesome trio of Up , Reveal and Around the Sun .
    Things I’ve learnt
    1) I’m not alone in thinking wtf with a lot of the first singles from each new lp
    2) I’m alone in liking around the sun
    3) so much of their output hasn’t dated at all
    4) how disappointing a lot of the b sides are ( I’m never that big a fan of live versions) always imagined they would have taken a suede / smiths approach
    5) perfect example of a group where all 4 together are essential
    6) the rise of streaming means wonder if we will ever get another REM or are we stuck in a single artists featuring …..world
    7) How fantastic the 2 of you are in capturing your feelings about each track

    Thankyou and excited JC for where you take us next

  8. Being a bit older than the Robster, my lifelong relationship with REM started with Murmer. For me, the band’s output between Chronic Town and LRP were the most perfect and influential years from any band ever. Throw in the dozen or so quality bootlegs of live shows from that period (The Aragon and Larry’s Hideaway have since been officially released) as well as Dead Letter Office, and you have an amazing document (see what I did there?) of this period. I was never a Singles guy but I looked forward to this piece each Sunday. Looking forward to the next REM project!

  9. As everyone above has said, this series has been a weekly highlight and even when the songs haven’t been up to much the writing has been. When I listen to R.E.M. these days, it’s almost always the IRS albums-there’s something incredibly special about the run of albums and songs from Chronic Town through to LRP. I have played Murmur loads recently and Reckoning too, partly due to this series kickstarting the group back into my consciousness. I listened to Green recently for the first time in years/ decades and it took me back to being 18- 19 instantly.

    Funnily, one of the main things about them seems to be (even though it seems so counter- intuitive given the quality of this series) they really weren’t best encountered as a singles band. And they often chose the wrong songs as singles.

  10. What a great run! Loved revisiting REM’s early days and feel lucky to have gotten in on the ground floor, so to speak. Didn’t love the latter-career stuff as much but learned a lot along the way. The quality of band’s music went up and down at times but, week in and out, we were treated to beautiful writing by The Robster and JC. An outstanding effort that never flagged — everyone looked forward to Sundays for the better part of a year! Talk about the passion…

  11. The heights of K2 have been scaled ! I’ve learned a lot about a band I once held dear, but I left behind long ago. Robster, JC, you have made these months of Sundays, enjoyable and informative and not held back. This has been a series that defines all that is great about T(n)VV! Thank you!

  12. Thanks for the ride. The posts have been the best start to a Sunday imaginable (well online and barring a magnificent victory for LUFC anyway!).
    The band may not have always (ever?) released their best as singles, but you two certainly released your finest at the weekends.
    Looking forward to next Sunday with excitement and a curiosity about what could possibly come close to this series…

  13. I think I may have said a lot last week but, really, what an achievement. I have loved this series, especially the top notch writing and obvious passion through the highs and lows, the brilliant comments and anecdotes and, actually, the music. It’s encouraged me to revisit the IRS albums and the R.E.M. I know and loved, but also challenge my ignorance and assumptions about their later period. I never thought of myself as a ‘big’ R.E.M. fan, and this series has made me realise that I cared much more than I thought. A big thanks to The Robster and JC and everyone else who has shared their insights and love (and indifference!) over the series. I am really looking forward to whatever comes next.

  14. Pure brilliance, I’ve enjoyed every post but the last 4 or 5 posts have been outstanding, to write with such passion and enthusiasm when the band were not what they once were has been beyond belief and ‘Indian Summer’ what a find- thank you, thank you,

  15. Thanks to you both for a truly excellent series. I have a lot of R.E.M., but still learned plenty and heard new things on this journey.

  16. Thank you Robster and JC for this series. I learned a lot
    about R.E.M. thanks to your insights and knowledge,
    as well as the comments from others. This was a real
    T(N)VV milestone. Great to hear of Robster’s follow-up.

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