Tuesday, January 04, 2011

R.E.M. Warms A Cold, Cold Heart

My ongoing conversation with REManklet.com continues today with the unveiling of a new R.E.M. song, Oh My Heart, which you can now hear at NPR's website.

I suggest you listen to the song -- and peruse Eric's surprisingly positive reaction -- before you read my response below:

Derek Sanderson Zimmermann,

It's nice to see you've recently become a fan of my favorite band, R.E.M.

I promise, as you set forth on your new adventure, that you won't be disappointed by the great majority of the band's back catalogue. If you're looking for something lovely and brooding, Automatic For The People is a good starting point for the casual fan, as is its Grammy-winning predecessor, Out Of Time. There may even be a song or two you recognize on those records from your favorite pop station back in the early '90s.

Perhaps you caught a verse of Shiny Happy People as you feverously twisted your FM dial in the hopes of hearing Kris Kross' anthem, Jump, which saved your ass on your first day of junior high, when you inadvertently showed up at homeroom with all your clothes on backwards. Or maybe The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite was sandwiched between a CeCe Peniston song and Eric Clapton's Tears In Heaven, to this day the most touching expression of love for a 4-year-old who fell to his death from a window ever to hit Top 40 radio -- as well as your first real foray into "grownup music."

I, and the reader(s) of REMring.com, look forward to your thoughts on such hits as Losing My Religion and Man On The Moon; I suggest, as a fun experiment, that you post your immediate impressions when you finally hear them, so the blogosphere can experience the raw sensation of discovery along with you.

Moving on, I applaud your positive response to Oh My Heart, despite your caveats, which I will address now. I happen to agree that Oh My Heart is a strong song, and, while yes, it may have been better had the band recorded it during their Stipe-as-master-crooner, Out Of Time-era heyday, that would have actually been impossible, as the song hadn't yet been written.

As for the lyrical reference to Houston, well, I would agree with you wholeheartedly if it weren't for the simple fact that the lyrical reference actually works here. It revisits a character and a time, updating a memorable phrase with its aftermath. That's very different from simply adding "part two!" to the lyrics -- which, by the way, is essentially what Metallica did for the song The Unforgiven II, their follow-up to another classic of your youth that helped shape you into the music fan you are today.

In all, I think we agree that Oh My Heart is a solid effort. I'm not sure if it is, as you assert, the best of the three tracks we've heard so far, but for me, that would be more of a compliment than it is for you. Still, I'm glad to have you on board. If you have any questions about the band, please don't hesitate. I suggest you try to see them on their next tour -- they put on a fantastic show, and I have a feeling you'd become a great enthusiast of their live oeuvre.

Love always,

No comments: