I love R.E.M.I started listening to them when I was in high school and, though my musical tastes have ebbed and flowed and shifted in the years since, I’ve never NOT listened to them. There’s pretty much always one R.E.M. song or other (and usually more than one) in any iPod playlist I happen to be favoring at any given time. They’re just a good band.
So, R.E.M. just released a collection of their two MTV Unplugged performances. I hadn’t bought any new music in a rather long while and, as it happens, I had part of an iTunes gift card burning a hole in my pocket. It wasn’t enough to buy the entire collection, but I thought I’d grab some random songs. (I still have a lot of gaps in my R.E.M. music library – an unfortunate consequence of the fact that much of my R.E.M. music collection of old was on cassette tape, and so I couldn’t burn it to my computer like I did with my CDs when I started becoming addicted to my iPod.)
I ended up buying about half a dozen songs. Among these was the acoustic version of “Get Up” from Green (which is one of my favorite R.E.M. songs.)
It was so good acoustic! I wouldn’t have thought that one would have translated so well.
I think I might like the original a tiny bit more still – but it’s a close call.
It was fun to hear “Get Up” (it’s been a while!) And the others I purchased were really good too. But the song that really just blew me away?
Actually, I should rather say that it blew the cobwebs of distraction out of my eyes and put right in front of my face WHY it is exactly that I’ve listened to this band for so many years, and WHY they’re so worthy of being listened to: “Find the River.”
This is probably my very favorite R.E.M. song (and I don’t say that lightly!) And the sad thing is, I hadn’t heard it in literally YEARS. I actually forgot about it! In the switch to digital, and with not re-acquiring albums in their entirety, I somehow missed getting a hold of the digital version of this, and it just sort of faded from my memory – until I stumbled across it in this Unplugged collection.
The Unplugged version of this song is excellent. And the original is so beautiful. I don’t know how I’ve gone so long without listening to this song!:
So, what I can’t figure out is what exactly it is about R.E.M. that makes them so timeless. Why doesn’t the music age? Why haven’t I outgrown the lyrics? Because it doesn’t and I haven’t. Not at all.
I’m not saying I’m experiencing the songs in exactly the same way that I did in college. I’m not – because I’m not the same person I was then. But the me of today is experiencing the music in a way that is every bit as potent – and that’s unusual. It’s like, the music has the ability to mold and meld with me, to shift with me, through the years. To reveal itself in different ways. I can’t think of any other music I can say that about.
I just read an interview with one of the band members (Mike Mills, I think it was?) He was saying that the band has a lot of unreleased music “in the vault” – and that they do definitely plan to release it. They’re just trying to figure out how/in what manner they want to do it.
I have to just say: I CAN’T WAIT!
In the meantime, I need to buy the rest of their Unplugged collection ASAP!
(Incidentally, I called this post “part 2” because I wrote a post a few months ago about a song that I still like a lot – despite the fact it’s been an appalling number of years now since it first came out: Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” That post is here.)