Posts Tagged ‘Peter Buck’

R.E.M. Album By Album Pt.5: ‘Monster’

During the first decade of their career, R.E.M. had become accustomed to fighting an uphill battle. Their timeless yet enigmatic early albums Murmur, Reckoning and Fables Of The Reconstruction had engrossed their hardcore fanbase, but it took the cumulative effect of that urgent, muscular triumvirate of Lifes Rich Pageant, Document and Green to finally push them to the brink of mainstream acceptance.

Up to this stage of their career, the versatile quartet had been perceived as the integrity-fuelled, alt.rock heroes it was OK to like. Yet, with the multi-million-selling double-whammy of 1991’s Out Of Time and ’92’s Automatic For The People, the band made an enviably seamless transition into bona fide global superstars.

Lesser bands could well have crumbled and given into excess-fuelled madness at this juncture, yet R.E.M.’s well-established work ethic instead kicked in and ensured they remained focused. With their post-Automatic For The People promotional duties completed, the four band members hunkered down for a four-day meeting in the Mexican resort town of Acapulco, discussing where they would go next.

REM Japan Monster Tour Poster - 300

Wonderful records though they were, Out Of Time and Automatic… had both consisted primarily of introspective, acoustic-based numbers; during their Mexican sojourn, the four bandmates reached a consensus. For their next album, R.E.M. would get back to making what guitarist Peter Buck had previously described to the NME as a “real noisy” rock’n’roll record which the band pledged to tour for the first time since undertaking a year-long trek in support of 1988’s Green.

Later in 1993, pre-production work began at Kingsway Studios in New Orleans, where the band worked up a bunch of new songs before moving to Crossover Soundstage, in Atlanta, Georgia, in February 1994. There they laid down most of the basic tracks for what would become their ninth LP, Monster. Though they had built their reputation as a consummate live act, R.E.M. had been off the road for the best part of five years, and co-producer Scott Litt wisely thought the band would benefit from recording their new songs live, partly to re-familiarise them with the rigours of performing in concert. “I thought they hadn’t toured for a while, so it would be good for them to get into that mindset,” Litt said “You know… monitors, PA, standing up.”

A post on the band’s official Facebook page today simply states “#Monster25 coming soon” followed by “October 1994: released. October 2019: planning starting now…” . The news doesn’t come as a great surprise, since similar treatment was given to 1991’s Out Of Time and 1992’s Automatic For The People in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Monster wasn’t as well received as the two that preceded it and was a return to a more ‘rockier’ vibe.

The album spawned a number of singles including ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’, ‘Bang and Blame’ and ‘Strange Currencies’. Unlike the band’s two previous records, the Monster sessions proved atypically fraught. Both Bill Berry and Mike Mills were struck down with illness; Michael Stipe suffered a tooth abscess that required urgent medical attention after the sessions had moved on to Criteria Studios in Miami; the band were collectively knocked sideways by the recent deaths of Stipe’s personal friends, actor River Phoenix and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The latter event hit Stipe especially hard and inspired Monster’s most intense track, the eerie, funereal tribute ‘Let Me In’.

“That song is me on the phone to Kurt, trying to get him out of the frame of mind he was in,” Stipe later told UK rock monthly Select. “I wanted him to know that… he was going to make it through. He and I were going to make a trial run of [Nirvana’s] next album. It was set up. He had a plane ticket. At the last minute he called and said, ‘I can’t come.’”

With the mixing sessions finally wrapping in LA during the summer of 1994, Monster was scheduled for release in October, and the band gave some preliminary interviews to provide the public with an insight into the new record. In a Time magazine feature, Mike Mills stressed that it would be anything but another Automatic For The People. “On past albums we had been exploring acoustic instruments, trying to use the piano and mandolin,” he said, before adding, “And you come back to the fact that playing loud electric guitar music is as fun as music can be.”

Monster was trailed by one of its strongest tracks, the grunge-y, anthemic ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ Stipe copped the title from a 1986 incident in New York, relating to a vicious attack on CBS Evening News presenter Dan Rather by two unknown assailants who reputedly repeated the phrase, “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” while beating him. Promoted by a striking video directed by ex-Cabaret Voltaire filmmaker Peter Care, wherein Stipe paraded his newly shaven head, ‘… Kenneth’ peaked at No.21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No.9 in the UK Top 40, and went on to become one of the band’s most popular – and most regularly performed – live numbers.

Released on 27th October 1994, Monster was, as Mills had previously hinted, very much a product of electric rock’n’roll instruments. Recorded with only minimal overdubs and long on heavily distorted guitars, it was chock-full of brash, extroverted garage-rockers such as ‘I Took Your Name’, ‘Star 69’ and the louche, T.Rex-ian ‘Crush With Eyeliner’, while, in most cases, Michael Stipe’s lyrics (which were written almost entirely in character) dealt with the nature of celebrity: something which R.E.M. were now having to deal with at very close quarters.

Monster was released at a time when musical trends were changing all over the world. Britpop was on the rise in the UK, while, in the US, alt.rock acts as diverse as The Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day were staking their claims with multi-platinum LPs. Yet Monster comfortably held its own and critics received it with enthusiasm. While acknowledging the album’s urgency and big rock shapes, Rolling Stone magazine gave it four-and-a-half-star review, penned by Robert Palmer, shrewdly concluded that the album was “a deeply felt, thematically coherent, consistently invigorating challenge to ‘evolve or die’, with all the courage of its convictions”.

A decade after its release, only ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ was picked for the much-lauded anthology collection In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. 1988-2003, suggesting that the band’s feelings towards the album have cooled over the years. Yet while songs such as the dance-enhanced ‘King Of Comedy’ might now seem dated to some ears, Monster includes several of the band’s most underrated gems. Though perhaps at odds with most of the album’s high-octane guitar pop, both the tender ‘Strange Currencies’ and the shimmering, soul-infused ‘Tongue’ (delivered by Stipe in an atypical, yet highly affecting falsetto) are worth the price of admission alone and certainly remain comparable with the best of the group’s illustrious canon.

Though it failed replicate the stratospheric successes of Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, Monster proved to be another mega-selling album. The UK, where it Monster bagged the No.1 spot during its week of release.

As good as their word, R.E.M. undertook a massive world tour in support of the album, yet difficulties that beset the band during the recording sessions returned to blight the tour. Bolstered by support acts including Grant Lee Buffalo and Died Pretty, the Australasian and Far East dates went off without a hitch, but when the tour swung through Europe and reached Lausanne, Switzerland, on 1 March 1995, Bill Berry complained of severe headaches while onstage and was later diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm.

Remarkably, after surgery and the cancellation of a raft of dates, Berry rejoined the tour in the US in May, though after R.E.M. returned to Europe, disaster struck again, with Mike Mills requiring urgent abdominal surgery. Once again the tour restarted successfully, only for Michael Stipe to undergo a hernia operation which – incredibly – was performed successfully without the need to cancel any further dates.

Again snatching victory from the jaws of adversity, R.E.M. finally sailed through the R.E.M. ’95 Tour’s remaining itinerary, playing a whopping 52 US dates. Three emotional, sold-out shows at The Omni in Atlanta brought the tour to a close, and provided the highlights for the electrifying Peter Care-directed video Road Movie.

Advertisements

Last month we highlighted a giant 9-disc R.E.M. boxed set filled with BBC Recordings, and while it’s still not officially announced though it seems we’re close to that happening  It appears the full details and a complete tracklist for the package.

REM grew up with the BBC, and this historic relationship is lovingly celebrated across an incredible collection that beautifully illustrates the career trajectory of one of modern music’s greatest bands. The collection comprises a treasure trove of rare and unreleased live and studio recordings culled from the BBC and band archives. This is a must-have collection for REM fans and an authoritative introduction for newcomers.

Due out October. 19th, R.E.M. at the BBC is now fully listed on Amazon.co.uk, along with a 2LP vinyl set called The Best of R.E.M. at the BBC that’s listed for release that same day. The set now has been officially announced, and we can add that The Best of R.E.M. at the BBC will not only be released as a 2LP vinyl set, but a 2CD edition as well.

So what’s in this thing?, here’s a quick rundown of the set, which includes live material recorded both in concert and in the studio for the BBC between 1984 and 2008.

Disc 1: A round-up of BBC in-studio sessions, including six songs recorded in 1991, plus a 1998 session with the legendary John Peel and more songs recorded in 2003 and 2008.

Disc 2: A 12-song performance recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre in London in 1998.

Disc 3: Perhaps the most exciting to longtime fans, this is a 16-song set recorded at Rock City in Nottingham, England, in 1984 during the Reckoning tour.

Discs 4 and 5: A complete 25-song Monster tour set recorded at Milton Keynes in 1995.

Discs 6 and 7: The band’s Glastonbury festival appearance in 1999 following the release of Up.

Disc 8: An 11-song, invite-only performance at St. James’s Church in London in 2004.

Disc 9: A DVD featuring the “Accelerating Backwards” film plus a “Later… with Jools Holland” appearance filmed in 1998, and a few other assorted performances.

As for the 2LP and 2CD “best of” editions, they’re described as offering “a selection of in-studio performance and live broadcast highlights” from the boxed set.

It should be noted, though, that the two contain slightly different tracklists, and the 2CD edition does include audio of two “Later… with Jools Holland” performances only included on the DVD of the larger set.

R.E.M. in Ireland in 1994.

R.E.M. collected rare and unreleased live and studio material for the massive R.E.M. at the BBC box set, out October 19th via Craft Recordings. The career-spanning set, assembled from the BBC and band archives, will be available in several formats: digital, 2-CD, 2-LP and a Super Deluxe 8-CD/1-DVD box set.

The deluxe package includes several in-studio sets (a John Peel Session from 1998, Drivetime and Mark and Lard from 2003, a Radio 1 Live Lounge performance from 2008) and live British broadcasts (1984 in Nottingham, 1995 in Milton Keynes, a headlining 1999 show at the Glastonbury Festival and an invitation-only 2004 set at St. James’s Church in London).

R.E.M.: R.E.M At The BBC

The DVD includes an hour-long retrospective of the band’s BBC performances in the Accelerating Backwards film, previously broadcast only in the U.K; it also includes interviews with R.E.M. members Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, along with performances on Later….With Jools Holland, Top of the Pops and more.

R.E.M. at the BBC features elaborate liner notes from BBC DJ/presenter Jo Whiley, BBC producer Mark Hagen and rock journalist Tom Doyle.

An instant-grat download of “Losing My Religion,” recorded in 1991 for an Into the Night session, is available with pre-orders of the box set or the two-disc Best of the R.E.M. at the BBC album.

R.E.M. grew up with the BBC, and this historic relationship is lovingly celebrated across an incredible collection that beautifully illustrates the career trajectory of one of modern music’s greatest bands. The collection—available as a super-deluxe edition 8-CD/1-DVD box set, as well as 2-CD, 2-LP and digital formats—comprises a treasure trove of rare and unreleased live and studio recordings culled from the BBC and band archives. This is a must-have collection for R.E.M. fans and an authoritative introduction for newcomers. In-studio performances featured in the 8-CD/1-DVD box set include a John Peel Session (1998), Drivetime and Mark and Lard appearances (2003) and a glorious Radio 1 Live Lounge performance (2008). Live broadcasts include a rough-and-tumble show from Nottingham’s Rock City (1984), the stunning 1995 Milton Keynes Monster Tour (their first after a six-year break), a blistering 1999 Glastonbury headline set and an invitation-only 2004 show at London’s St James’s Church.

R.E.M. have now released a version of ‘E-Bow the Letter’ featuring Thom Yorke to celebrate the release of their new BBC Sessions box set.

The New Adventures in Hi-Fi track was originally released as a single in 1996 and featured backing vocals from rock icon Patti Smith. This version of the track was recorded in 2004 at St. James’s Church in London, where Thom Yorke made a surprise appearance. Radiohead had supported R.E.M. back in 1995 on their Monstertour.

R.E.M. at the BBC is out October 19th

R.E.M. grew up with the BBC, and this historic relationship is lovingly celebrated across an incredible collection that beautifully illustrates the career trajectory of one of modern music’s greatest bands. The collection—available as a super-deluxe edition 8-CD/1-DVD box set, as well as 2-CD, 2-LP and digital formats—comprises a treasure trove of rare and unreleased live and studio recordings culled from the BBC and band archives. This is a must-have collection for R.E.M. fans and an authoritative introduction for newcomers. In-studio performances featured in the 8-CD/1-DVD box set include a John Peel Session (1998), Drivetime and Mark and Lard appearances (2003) and a glorious Radio 1 Live Lounge performance (2008). Live broadcasts include a rough-and-tumble show from Nottingham’s Rock City (1984), the stunning 1995 Milton Keynes Monster Tour (their first after a six-year break), a blistering 1999 Glastonbury headline set and an invitation-only 2004 show at London’s St James’s Church.

After coming home fired up from their 2017 tours (which included UK/Euro/US dates with Drive-By Truckers, Dream Syndicate, Fruit Bats, The Cribs) Eyelids headed into various studios in Portland to finish up work on a new batch of songs they had been working on. They ended up with a perfect combination of the lilting, powerful hooks of their recent Peter Buck produced album “or” alongside the spookier, more meditative moments from their debut album “854”. Oh and they added in a fiery rendition of The Gun Club’s “Sex Beat” (with Scott and Peter of R.E.M. throwing down alongside them) just to hammer the point home. Now Eyelids could always write a earworm of a song (which is why “or” ended up many best of 2017 lists) and from the minute the needle hits this vinyl there it is again. With its rolling and intricate jangle Eyelids (like XTC, R.E.M. and The Byrds–their three biggest comparisons from the press) make their three distinct personalities/guitars become an amazingly powerful whole.

Sonically there is a new layer to their sound. Guitars flutter and dive; strings and harmonies collide. From the beautiful opening chords of “Maybe More” to the screams of their cover of Gun Club’s “Sex Beat” this is their most diverse offering yet. The tipped over folk of “Cannon & Dee” with its lush harmonies and the harsh melancholy of “Masterpiece (Wanna Die)” make for an emotional ride. Flip the record over and you’ll discover a newly remastered live Eyelids performance from last year at the legendary Monty Hall (which is run by the equally legendary station WFMU). The show was a mess of great songs, crazed banter, special guests and features highlights from many of the last 9 (!) releases the band has put forth into the world over the last 4 years. Eyelids are getting ready for more touring and recording in 2019, in the meantime we invite you to let this sonic celebration of where Eyelids are at and what they are moving towards sink in!

http://

Releases September 14th, 2018
Produced by Peter Buck & Eyelids

shipping out on or around September 13th, 2018 Limited Edition of 300 units only

Document

R.E.M’s second album, 1984’s Reckoning, carried a curious phrase on the LP’s spine: “File Under Water.” It was a designation, an in-joke or even an alternate title that referenced the running theme of water in the album’s lyrics, from “Seven Chinese brothers swallowing the ocean” to “These rivers of suggestion are driving me away.”

When R.E.M. released their first best-of collection, 1988’s Eponymous, the compilation had a different designation: “File Under Grain.” This time, it was a reference to the wheat field cover art as well as the subject matter of the LP’s lone single, “Talk About the Passion,” which was about hunger.

A few years, and albums, after Reckoning, and about a year before Eponymous hit stores, R.E.M. repeated this exercise. Lead singer and primary lyricist Micheal Stipe had noticed that many of the songs that made up the band’s fifth studio album, “Document” featured fire from burning coals in “Exhuming McCarthy” and fiery destruction in “Welcome To The Occupation” to a firehouse in “Oddfellows Local 151” and a literal chorus of “Fire!” in “The One I Love” When released in the summer of 1987, Document had “File Under Fire” inscribed on its spine.

R.E.M. has just finished a tour of Europe and North America, playing to the largest crowds of the group’s career so far. They are on the cover of the Rolling Stone, underscored with the declaration “America’s Best Band.” Their latest album,Document, is fast approaching platinum sales in the U.S. And they have a Top 10 hit. Most bands would be thrilled, ready to forge ahead with declarations of continued greatness . But the guys in R.E.M., bandmates for seven years, were more surprised by their quantum leap in popularity, maybe even shocked by it, and definitely skeptical.

For R.E.M., 1986 had been a pivotal year. The band’s fourth album, the brash, yet highly accessible Lifes Rich Pageant had rewarded them with their first gold disc, while their extensive Pageantry tour of the US had garnered considerable critical acclaim. As 1987 rolled around, confidence was at a high within the R.E.M. camp. The Athens, Georgia, quartet had already worked up a clutch of promising new songs for what would become their fifth album, Document, and they had completed a successful initial studio session with new producer Scott Litt prior to Christmas ’86.

Litt had already assembled an impressive CV. He began his career as a studio engineer during the late 70s, working on recordings by artists as diverse as Carly Simon and Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter. He debuted as a producer in 1982 with The dB’s Repercussion album, a record R.E.M. were already familiar with, having shared stages with the band. In fact, the two groups’ histories would continue to intertwine when The dB’s co-frontman, Peter Holsapple, later joined R.E.M. as their fifth member on the Green tour and then played on Out Of Time.

R.E.M. and Litt began their fruitful, decade-long partnership with the successful recording of the quirky ‘Romance’. Though intended for the soundtrack of the film Made In Heaven, the song also later featured on the rarities compilation Eponymous. Litt reconvened with the band at their regular demo studio – John Keane in Athens – for an extensive demo session, before R.E.M. took a break and briefly embarked on extracurricular activities, including some studio contributions to Warren Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene album.

The band were back in the harness with their new producer at the end of March, with all of April ’87 given over to the recording of Document at Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Several of the songs had already been worked up onstage, and the band’s keen pre-production work paid dividends: for Document, R.E.M and Scott Litt captured the sound of a rock band at the absolute top of their game, capable of taking on all comers.

The accessibility that seeped from Lifes Rich Pageant’s every pore was again apparent, but this time round the band had taken things up a gear. Indeed, the R.E.M. of Document was a sinewy, muscular rock beast, primed and ready to dominate the airwaves. Peter Buck’s distinctive jangle and chime was still apparent on ‘Disturbance At The Heron House’ and ‘Welcome To The Occupation’, but, for the most part, his guitar playing took on a sharp, steely quality. Accordingly, he turned in some of his most memorable recorded performances: launching ‘Finest Worksong’ with urgent, metallic riffs; embroidering the swampy funk of ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins’ with Andy Gill-esque tension and atonality; and punctuating the band’s supercharged cover of Wire’s ‘Strange’ with a neat, Nuggets-style psych-pop solo.

Meanwhile, the newfound confidence and vocal clarity Michael Stipe proffered on Lifes Rich Pageant continued apace, and on Document he summoned up a clutch of startling performances: bending and twisting his voice like an old time preacher around ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins’ and rattling off a rapid-fire alternate history of the 20th Century on the exhilarating ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’.

Lyrically, the socio-political concerns Stipe addressed on Lifes Rich Pageant again loomed large. Featuring barbed observations such as “Listen to the Congress where we propagate confusion/Primitive and wild, fire on the hemisphere below,” ‘Welcome To The Occupation’ was widely reputed to be a commentary on American intervention in South America. The deceptively infectious ‘Exhuming McCarthy’ also delved into political hypocrisy, drawing a parallel between the communist-baiting of the Joe McCarthy era of 50s American politics and the recent Iran-Contra affair during which senior politicians under President Ronald Reagan had secretly facilitated the sales of arms to Iran: a country which was then under an arms embargo.

Sonically, Document also afforded the band the chance to further broaden their palette. Special guest, Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, added his distinctive saxophone skills to ‘Fireplace’, while lap steel and dulcimer coloured the hypnotic, raga-like ‘King Of Birds’. From their earliest days recording Murmur with Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, R.E.M. had always relished the opportunity to try out different sounds and textures – and experimental approach that would continue through Green and Out Of Time, wherein the band members often swapped instruments and fashioned new songs from riffs and melodies worked up on acoustic instruments such as mandolins and accordions.

The spine of the artwork for R.E.M.’s second album, Reckoning, had featured the message ‘File Under Water’ and the original sleeve design for Document included another elemental phrase, ‘File Under Fire’. Michael Stipe considered fire to be one of the record’s central lyrical themes, with the album also including the song ‘Fireplace’ and the eerie, religion-related ‘Oddfellow’s Local 151’, on which the chorus consisted of Stipe repeatedly keening the word “Firehouse!” Document’s savage break-out single ‘The One I Love’ again included a chorus wherein Stipe sang “Fire!”, and while this emotionally vicious song itself was actually the very antithesis of a traditional love song, it still provided R.E.M. with their first major US hit single when it peaked at No.9 singles chart.

The second song on side two, “Fireplace.” Like the song that preceded it on the album, “The One I Love,” the track both contained a connection to fire and the use of repetition by Stipe. Where “The One I Love” replicated the same verse three times, but switched out a word in the last reiteration to emphasize a nasty cycle (“A simple prop” became “Another prop”), “Fireplace” changed the last line of its chorus each time, in an effort to depict escalation.

The first time around, the floor is cleared to “sweep the rug into the fireplace.” Next time, they “sweep the floor into the fireplace.” Before long, it’s “throw the chairs into the fireplace” and then, finally, “throw the walls into the fireplace.” What begins with, seemingly, the burning of dust and crumbs ends with the destruction of the structure that the fireplace is meant to make habitable. Fire and brimstone, indeed.

As it turns out, “Fireplace” has a significant religious connection. According to many R.E.M. biographies, Stipe’s lyrical inspiration for the song was a speech given in the eighteenth century by Mother Ann Lee, the leader of the first American chapter of the Shakers. Before she became known as Mother Ann, Lee joined this religious sect – also known as the Shakin’ Quakers because of their dancing method of worship – in her native England, where she was persecuted for her beliefs.

Despite the Shakers’ extreme reaction to a civilization that they felt was out of control (perhaps reflected in Stipe’s recitation of “Crazy, crazy world / Crazy, crazy times”), the sect is mostly known today for their simple, strong craftsmanship of furniture and for their love of dancing and movement as a method of worship. Each shaker home had hooks mounted on the wall, on which their chairs could be hung. This would allow for a strict cleaning of the floor, as well as make room for dancing.

Both of these elements are represented in the chorus of the R.E.M. song: “Hang up your chairs to better sweep / Clear the floor to dance.” Eventually, of course, everything including the floor, chairs and walls ends up in the fireplace. Given the other political content on Document, it’s likely that Stipe was making some sort of modern connection to Mother Ann Lee. “Fireplace” could be a cautionary tale, that righteous anger of any kind can slowly consume the structures that are necessary.

Stipe’s cryptic lyrics and matched by the strange, sharp instrumentation, which includes an off-kilter beat from drummer Bill Berry. “Fireplace” a “hard-rock waltz with a modal, hypnotic riff.” Peter Buck, the guitarist responsible for the riff, explained that R.E.M. was hoping for weirder results when making Document.

“This time around we wanted to make a tougher-edged record,” Buck reported .Its predecessor “Lifes Rich Pageant”. This time we wanted to make a loose, weird, semi-live-in-the-studio album. We wanted to have a little tougher stance. Part of the loose, weird approach was provided by saxophonist Steve Berlin, most famous as a member of Los Lobos – although he also worked with the Replacements, the Go-Go’s and Faith No More. Co-producer Scott Litt had previously teamed with Berlin and brought him near the end of the Document sessions. His midnight sax took the place of a typical Buck guitar solo, lending “Fireplace” a jazzy edge, as it finished off the song in an explosion of freewheeling bebop honking. Never before had an outside musician been given such a prominent role on an R.E.M. LP.

“That one was obviously a big one, because R.E.M. were pretty huge, said Berlin  “I was a little nervous going into that field, but it was a lot of fun. Even though they’d been successful, they were still experimenting. They were having a lot of fun making that record. The vibe in that room was they were really having a great time. They were happy with the way they were sounding and how the record was going and the way the world was receiving them. It was just a real honor to be a part of it.”

The guys in R.E.M. must not have thought that “Fireplace” was much good without Berlin’s presence. The band only performed the song 10 times in concert in their entire career, the final instance coming in 1989. “Fireplace” remains a stranger, lesser-known entry in the R.E.M. canon, although – as with the Shakers – the workmanship is rock solid.

Document followed through on the success of ‘The One I Love’, peaking at an impressive No.10 in September 1987. The band’s heavy touring schedule across the past five years now yielded far greater dividends as Document proved to be a hit in numerous territories, peaking at No.28 in the UK (where it also went gold), No.17 in New Zealand and No.13 in Canada, where it earned a platinum disc for the band.

The press agreed en masse that R.E.M. had again conjured up something special with Document. Always one of rock’s most insightful writers, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke was impressed by Stipe’s continued prowess as a frontman (“His vocals, which are upfront in the mix, are as crisp and distinct as they’ve ever been, full of emotional portent and physical insistence”) before he cogently summed up his review with: “Document is the sound of R.E.M. on the move, the roar of a band that prides itself on the measure of achievement and the element of surprise.” Elsewhere, New York Times critic Robert Christgau weighed in with, “Their commercial breakthrough eschews escapism without surrendering structural obliqueness,” and the Los Angeles Times praised: “A tougher, meaner, leaner album than its immediate predecessors, with a far more hard-edged guitar sound and tenser rock rhythms.”

The group filmed promotional videos for Document’s spearhead singles, ‘The One I Love’ (directed by New York artist Robert Longo) and ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (But I Feel Fine)’, for which R.E.M. turned to their long-term friend Jim Herbert, also the director of photography for the rock documentary Athens Georgia Inside-Out. In readiness for their next bout of touring, the band embarked on a series of interviews, including one with Rolling Stone, wherein Peter Buck cautiously stated: “I don’t see this as the record that’s going to blast apart the chart.”

From the onset of the band’s European tour, however, it was clear that R.E.M. were indeed ready to sell a large number of records and slough off the shackles of cultdom for good. The band’s Work tour kicked off with a rapturously received show at one of London’s premier indoor venues, the Hammersmith Odeon, and continued with the band playing to packed houses in The Netherlands, Germany and at La Cigale in the French capital, Paris.

Taking 10,000 Maniacs (and, later, The dB’s) along as their support, R.E.M. launched into the American leg of their Work tour with a show at the University Of Tennessee in Knoxville, on 1st October, and traversed North America and Canada until the end of November, playing around 45 shows in all. Along the way, they performed some of their most prestigious gigs to date, including a two-night stand at one of their favourite stamping grounds, New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Document was a massive turning point for R.E.M., filled with big hits and hard lessons. As the band’s final studio LP with I.R.S. Records, it marked the ending of the band’s underground years – as R.E.M. would jump to Warner Bros. the following year and become an act that could fill arenas. But it was also the beginning of a new era, a fruitful studio partnership with Scott Litt resulting in a bevy of blockbuster albums and many more radio songs.

Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Joseph Arthur recently formed a new band, Arthur Buck, they released a brand-new video for the second track from the forthcoming album  “Are You Electrified?” Arthur Buck will release the self-titled debut album on June 15th via New West Records.

Following their latest track, “I Am The Moment,” their “Are You Electrified?” video sees the duo performing outside on the beach and alongside graffiti-painted walls, with colorful visual effects and flourishes adding to the video and song’s overall trippy feel.

All of the album’s 11 tracks were co-written by the pair and mixed by Tchad Blake (U2, Pearl Jam, The Black Keys). Recorded at Type Foundry Studio in Portland, Ore., the album was produced by Arthur at his studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The collaboration came about after the pair met up in Mexico near the end of 2017. Arthur recalled, “My first thought was, ‘Hey, I’ll get Peter to play acoustic guitar on some of the stuff I’m working on!’ So I started showing him songs. But he was like, ‘That’s cool. Now check this out.’ And he started playing chords and whatnot. So I put my guitar down and began singing over his changes, and it was magical. It was easy. And these great songs just started popping out.”

“It was all new songs, and it was spontaneous,” Buck said. “And the great thing about working that way was that it didn’t have to be anything in particular. It was liberated from any expectation. It was free.” Talking about his new bandmate and the album’s lyrics, Buck also added, “Joe is going through that searching period we all go through in life. And those experiences he’s having make this a very forward-looking record, lyrically.”

 

Joseph Arthur and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck will release their debut LP, Arthur Buck, on June 15th via New West Records. The duo previewed the album with upbeat lead single “I Am The Moment”

“Becoming free/ It’s not as easy as I’d like it to be,” Arthur sings over a lush arrangement that builds with a raw blend of percussion, vocal samples and strings.

The Arthur Buck collaboration originated toward the end of 2017, when the pair rain into each other during respective visits to Todos Santos, Mexico. They wound up pooling their material and crafted eight songs in three days; on the fourth, they performed a show for a small group of locals near Buck’s home. “It was really spontaneous and kind of magical in its own way, as [being in Mexico] we were kind of disconnected from everything,” said Buck

In an interview with NPR, Arthur recalls writing “I Am the Moment” “within the first 10 minutes of seeing each other.” He continued, “Same way as we wrote our other songs. He had the chords and arrangement and I did the top line  except when I sang, ‘I am the moment ,’ he sang back, ‘Waiting for you.’ Peter said, ‘Okay, finish the lyrics so we can play that tonight.’ And I did, and we did. And the crowd completely sang along to it.” Arthur said that the song arose through his ritual of listening to inspirational YouTube clips.

From the album ‘Arthur Buck,’ available June 15th . Arthur Buck is Peter Buck and Joseph Arthur Animation/painting by Joseph Arthur

On March 31st, 2008, R.E.M. released their 14th studio album in europe, “Accelerate”,  As the title implies, the record, possesses great urgency. Songs such as “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” and “Horse to Water” careen and lurch forward on the strength of buzzing guitars, lithe bass lines and racing tempos. The goofy, dissonant “I’m Gonna DJ” with lyrics such as “Death is pretty final / I’m collecting vinyl” cloaks its apocalyptic messages in crunchy glam riffs that hark back to 1994’s Monster.

To many, Accelerate felt like a decided sonic nod to the band’s past. After all, the lead single “Supernatural Superserious” boasts clear-eyed guitar jangle, and the acoustic-led “Until the Day Is Done” has the kind of elegiac folk vibe the band favored on 1992’s Automatic for the People.

OF course, R.E.M. had been threatening to “go back to their roots” for years; it was a running joke among fans that the phrase would crop up during album’s pre-release promotional cycles. But vocalist Michael Stipe for one demurred that Accelerate sounded like “a cousin” to 1986’s Lifes Rich Pageant and 1987’s Document.

“I’m really bad at looking backwards, and I’ve stated that a thousand times before,” he responded. “Even thematically, I had no idea where the direction the record would go. I try not to think, or overthink, what I’m writing about and let it come through me and be in some more unconscious voice.

“Thematically, I didn’t know ’til halfway through how the record was shaping up, and the different emotions that are touched on and the different scenarios that are played out in the record.”

Still, as the songs for Accelerate coalesced, the band did nod back to their early road warrior days. Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills began working on instrumental demos in winter 2007, assisted by touring members Bill Rieflin and Scott McCaughey. The music they wrote was faster and more aggressive than other material they had written in years.  Mills suggested the band work out its new songs in a live setting before recording them, as it had done in its early years so over five nights in July 2007, R.E.M. hunkered down at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, and workshopped their new songs and unearthed seldom-heard chestnuts (“Circus Envy,” “Kohoutek”) in front of a live audience. The album was recorded the album in a nine-week schedule. Stipe said, “We spent less time making this record than we have in 20 years”

As had been the case throughout R.E.M.’s history, a couple of these new songs (“On the Fly” and “Staring Down the Barrel of the Middle Distance”) never made it past the live tryout to a studio record. But other future Accelerate songs, including “Man-Sized Wreath” and the title track, were vital.

In several other notable ways, Accelerate was a firm step forward. For starters, the band worked with producer Jacknife Lee, at the recommendation of U2 guitarist the Edge. Stipe, who had enjoyed Lee’s work with bands like Snow Patrol and Bloc Party, said the producer was an asset in the studio.

“I think he’s got his own style, but more than anything, it’s probably just a directness, a straightforward way of communicating, which is something that the band, we were looking for in ourselves on this record. And he definitely has his own sound. I think he does, anyway. It’s a little different. He doesn’t necessarily come from rock music and so the universe that he collides with our universe is interesting.”

Accelerate is a real pop album in the sense that the arrangements are (generally) compact and don’t skimp on hooks. But, if anything, Lee’s influence—when combined with the ferocity of studio drummer Bill Rieflin—ensured this record possessed the kind of velocity that was largely absent on R.E.M.’s previous studio album, 2004’s Around The Sun.

Accelerate is also full of biting, observant songs touching on society and politics. “Houston”—a song “filled with sadness,” Stipe refers to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

“I was writing from the point of view of someone who has barely survived Hurricane Katrina and then been displaced,” he explained. “Barbara Bush, the ex-First Lady and the president’s mother, said, ‘So many of the people were underprivileged anyway, so this is working well for them.’ Hello, Barbara, these are people who lost everything. I know people who lost family members, their homes, everything.”

In an odd twist, Accelerate feels extremely relevant to the post-2016 roiling political climate–even though Stipe told Huffington Post in 2008 that certain songs were written about the political chaos of that time. “All of the new songs are fictional. ‘Mr. Richards’ could be about any member of the current administration. “Living Well Is the Best Revenge’ is about the 24-hour, personality-driven news media. ‘Until the Day Is Done’ is about how the idea of America is so much greater than where this country has gone.

“The title of the album is tied to my conception of the 21st century as it has unfolded,” Stipe added. “I just thought we would have solved these problems by now. So here we sit, even as people feel, as I do, that things are moving way too fast. We are out of control.”

Accelerate landed at No. 1 on the album charts in the U.K., After the album’s release, R.E.M. embarked on what would be their last world tour as a band.

A deluxe edition of the album was released in addition to the standard edition; it includes a DVD featuring filmmaker Vincent Moon’s film 6 Days, which includes behind-the-scenes footage and performances of various songs on the album. Two B-side tracks, “Red Head Walking” and “Airliner,” are included as bonus tracks, along with a 64-page booklet. The vinyl version consists of two 12 inch discs each running at 45 RPM, and contains the full album on CD.

All songs written by Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, except where noted.

  1. “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” – 3:11
  2. “Man-Sized Wreath” – 2:32
  3. “Supernatural Superserious” – 3:23
  4. “Hollow Man” – 2:39
  5. “Houston” – 2:05
  6. “Accelerate” – 3:33
  7. “Until the Day Is Done” – 4:08
  8. “Mr. Richards” – 3:46
  9. “Sing for the Submarine” – 4:50
  10. “Horse to Water” – 2:18
  11. “I’m Gonna DJ” – 2:07

Bonus tracks

  1. “Red Head Walking” (Calvin Johnson) – 2:11
  2. “Airliner” (Buck, Mills, Stipe, and Scott McCaughey) – 2:21
  3. “Horse to Water” (Live from Athens) – 2:17
  4. “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” (Live from Athens) – 3:12
  5. “Until the Day Is Done” (Live from Athens) – 4:06
  6. “Supernatural Superserious” (Live from Athens) – 3:25

There was only one show performed in support of the 1992 release of “Automatic For The People”, that was on 19th November at the group’s old haunt, the 40 Watt Club in Athens GA. (almost 25 years to the day) Here is the recently discovered complete film of this performance. Special thanks to Dan Aguar & Todd Ploharsky for film restoration. The audio is available on all versions of the new 25th Anniversary Reissue of Automatic For The People. The Set includes four tunes from their recently released album including “Drive” (which was played twice), “Man on the Moon,” “Everybody Hurts” and “Monty Got a Raw Deal,” proving it wasn’t always bad to hear “and now here’s a new song.”

SETLIST:

01 – Drive (0:00) 02 – Monty Got A Raw Deal (4:35) 03 – Everybody Hurts (8:49) 04 – [Greenpeace Speech] (14:42) 05 – Man On The Moon (16:07) 06 – [‘Oh Life’ Story] (21:25) 07 – Losing My Religion (22:35) 08 – Country Feedback (27:56) 09 – Begin The Begin (33:04) 10 – Fall On Me (37:05) 11 – Me In Honey (41:39) 12 – Finest Worksong (46:00) 13 – Drive (54:34) 14 – Love Is All Around (1:00:20) 15 – Funtime (1:04:47) 16 – Radio Free Europe (1:07:26)

There’s a famous quote from a movie. The movie was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the often-repeated line was, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Legend vs. fact. Reality and the silver screen. What goes on behind closed doors compared to what the public perceives. These are some of the themes of “Monty Got a Raw Deal,” the seventh track on R.E.M.’s 1992 album, Automatic for the People. In 1992, as R.E.M. were starting to record their eighth studio album, guitarist Peter Buck began to fiddle with a Greek stringed instrument called a bouzouki. Buck had already become enamored with mandolins, employing them on the band’s two previous LPs (1988’s Green and 1991’s Out of Time) before he began playing the bouzouki, which has a similarly stinging – but fuller, deeper – sound when plucked. He used the instrument to come up with a new tune.

“I wrote the main riff on my bouzouki in the hotel room in New Orleans,” said Buck, recalling that it happened in the middle of the night when a particularly affectionate couple were conducting business one room over. “I don’t know what the couple next door were doing,” he added. “It sounded like an orgy.”

The legend is that Buck came up with “Monty Got a Raw Deal” and, the very next day, R.E.M. recorded the basic foundation for it at Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway Studio in the French Quarter. But the facts appear to diverge from Buck’s memory.

R.E.M. Automatic For the People reissue

R.E.M. made Automatic in a number of far-flung locales and one of them was the Crescent City. But the band made its way to New Orleans in March, a couple of weeks after they had already demoed a huge batch of tracks in their hometown of Athens, Ga. – at a local haunt, John Keane Studios. And back in Athens, R.E.M. had already tracked an instrumental called “Bazouki Song” (sic) that would turn into “Monty Got a Raw Deal.”

Now, it’s possible that Buck further fleshed out an already existing idea in New Orleans or that his passionate neighbors helped him distill the song’s dark sound. But his story just sounds better. Print the legend.

“I was up late, couldn’t sleep,” Buck repeated in 1992. “We put it down in one take and [singer] Michael [Stipe] said, ‘Oh, that’s my favorite song.’”

It was only fitting that when Stipe created lyrics for the instrumental track that he’d do his own mythmaking – in this instance, regarding the movie business. He was inspired to write about Montgomery Clift after a photographer who had worked with the late film actor visited R.E.M. during the band’s creative process.

“The Montgomery Clift thing came because there was someone who was a photographer on the set of The Misfits who came by the studio,” Buck said. “He had photos from it and he was talking about it. … We saw those pictures and, while we were recording it, Michael was talking about it.”

The Misfits, released in 1961, featured one of Clift’s last film roles (and the final screen appearances of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable). It followed the Clift’s fall from grace. In the late ’40s and early ’50s, the Nebraska native had become one of Hollywood’s young stars, emerging at the same time as fellow method actors Marlon Brando and James Dean. Film studios began to market the good-looking, but brooding, star as a sex symbol – an identity further enhanced by his role opposite Elizabeth Taylor in 1951’s A Place in the Sun.

The gossip mongers spread rumors that Clift and Taylor were an item off-screen too. But the two Hollywood hotshots were just very close friends. After all, Taylor revealed later, Clift was more interested in romantic relationships with men. But being openly gay – or bisexual, as people close to the actor have claimed – in ’50s public life was not a viable option. Like many others, Montgomery Clift concealed his sexuality.

That was only one of the tragedies of Clift’s relatively short life. In 1956, he fell asleep while driving, crashed into a telephone pole in Beverly Hills and smashed up his face. Although he underwent plastic surgery, Clift’s looks were forever changed (part of his face was immobile) and he entered a depression. He coped with the pain with alcohol and pills, became an addict and began a long, slow decline that ultimately ended with his substance abuse-related death in 1966. He was 45.

R.E.M. weren’t the first band to write about Montgomery Clift in a rock song. The Clash depicted the disaster of the actor’s final years in “The Right Profile” on London Calling. But Stipe took a more empathetic approach with his lyrics, finding obvious parallels between his present life as a bisexual rock star and Clift’s time as a closeted film star. Each had endured the harsh light of celebrity.

“Monty Got a Raw Deal” doesn’t dispute the power of the movies or the allure of fame, even if he regards the latter with a jaundiced eye. “The movies had that movie thing / but nonsense has a welcome ring,” Stipe sings, before warning, “and heroes don’t come easy.” Perhaps the idea is that you can’t be a hero unless you suppress a part of yourself to live up to what the popular notions of a hero might be.

The song goes from film noir (“mischief knocked me in the knees”) to European expressionism, as he sees Clift lynched in a tree and buried in the sand – conjuring images of From Here to Eternity – even if that was Burt Lancaster, not Clift, rolling on the beach with Deborah Kerr. Our narrator is implored to stay mum, leading the chorus: “Don’t you waste your breath for the silver screen.” As the song continues, “Monty” becomes both tragic and mythical. The character becomes bigger, more representative of the marginalized, seemingly surviving torture, death and being outed. “Raw deal,” indeed.

Bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills is unsure whether the title of “Monty Got a Raw Deal” is an accidental double reference to Monty Clift and Monty Hall (who hosted the game show Let’s Make a Deal) or a particularly wry joke by Michael Stipe. Mills is more confident speaking to his role in the song, strengthening the recording’s noir-ish feel with the Carter Burwell-like wheeze of a melodica and a lumbering bass part.

“The bass is actually an old Guild electric bass that’s only about two feet long. The strings are rubber surgical tubing. When you play it, you get sort of a sound like an upright bass,” Mills has said. “For me, that’s what I think of when I think of that song. It looks like a lap steel with surgical tubing on it. It’s very strange.”

It wasn’t the only offbeat, but effective, choice made when recording and doing overdubs for the song. In addition to Bill Berry’s steady, sharp drums, “Monty Got a Raw Deal” features intermittent industrial crashes – startling bursts of background stomping that suggest the hazards of Clift’s story, Stipe’s experience or other tragedies.

“How much of the song is real, how much of it is about Montgomery Clift and how much is about home?” Buck asked in 1992. “I couldn’t tell you.”