Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Beach Boys cover

I'm mid-way through my exams now (thus the reason I haven't posted in over a week), but that hasn't stopped me from having a little fun! As a quickie, I'd like to give you this:

All the instruments were played by me. I used a drum loop, and recorded some custom parts for it with my keyboard, and recorded all the vocal tracks, which took forever and a day. Hope you like it! :)

Yours truly,

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A rarity from the back catalogue

Hello all! I'm mid-way through my exams, so only another short post here, but I have something very rare and very special to share with you all. As you no doubt know, I love collecting rarities and bootlegs, and I am attempting to collect most of the studio B-sides from R.E.M.'s huge collection of singles. However, no matter where I looked on the Internet I just could not find The Lion Sleeps Tonight, a cover of the Tokens' hit that the band placed on The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite in 1993.

But then, after I realised that I would not be able to find it on the Internet (I had tried YouTube, Spotify and tons of bootleg sites), I headed over to Amazon and saw the single for a mere £0.02 (plus £1.26 P+P)! Excited, I went ahead and bought it so I could then share it with all you lovely people out there.

So, without further ado... the first time this has ever appeared on the Internet... The Lion Sleeps Tonight!

Get back to me and let me know if this works... it says this video is blocked worldwide. :S

Yours truly,

Monday, 2 May 2011

Two new films released - CIN film project

Well, happy birthday to me, it seems! I've turned 16 today, and to celebrate I have a little surprise for you all - two new offerings from the Collapse Into Now film project. First up, we have Every Day is Yours to Win, which actually came out a while ago (but I was being sneaky and left it out my last post!). Accompanying this is an introduction from Michael and one of the directors, Jim McKay.

An interesting video, no doubt, with some quirky choices of actors. In the intro video, Michael and Jim state how they were inspired by Chris Rock (Google her), and her antics on the Internet. Things then took a very weird turn when Chris, a fan herself, actually wrote a comment on the video! Small world, eh?

I can't embed Discoverer onto this page, so you'll have to head to to see it (WARNING: Very flashy). The interview below the seizure-inducing film is also rather insightful, with Michael explaining that the song's inspiration came from New York. We also find out the name of Lynda Stipe's pitbull. ;)

I would write more today, but I can't be bothered... it is my birthday, after all! Later today I will be heading to a recording studio to play a few songs: one which I have written, and a cover of that Mikey Mills classic Near Wild Heaven. Until then!

Yours truly,

P.S. Funny, this - Lynda's experimental band is called Flash to Bang Time. Upon checking out the band Myspace page, I discovered that their record label is "Happy Birthday to Me"! Synchronicity or what?

Friday, 29 April 2011

To clear things up...

...about my last post, which may have confused you somewhat. I was unable to write a full explanation as to why I felt the need to host a seemingly-irrelevant image on the blog. Now, however, with more time on my hands I'll be happy to fill you all in, and update you with the latest news in the world.

Just yesterday I stumbled upon the site, a website containing a 'ring' of R.E.M.-related forums, fansites etc., with the opportunity to join yourself. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and added the HTML code to the bottom of this blog, sending my application form as soon as possible. However, to get the image to display I had to alter the HTML and use an image that I hosted... and the only way to do that was to host it by uploading it to a post on this blog. So, mystery solved!

I don't know whether I will be on the WebRing soon or not, as the site seems to have been devoid of updates for years. Indeed, the most recent posts I could find on their forum are over a year old, so it remains to be seen if my website will join those listed in the page index. If a month passes without any notification, I'll delete the HTML.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to announce that some cool things are happening at Remmo and Kugat have been doing a great job with the site, and I've been doing my best to help out whenever I can, posting news and the like. Recently I posted a list of songs that might be relevant to the "Music" section of their site... anyway, to cut a long story short, one thing led to another and now I'm collaborating with them to make improvements to that section of their website. I'm very excited about this - more to come, hopefully!

After a long spell of silence, Michael seems to be back on the laptop and writing articles for R.E.M. HQ and TIME magazine. His most recent post, a plug for his friend Christy Turlington's Mother's Day charity record, is written in his usually cheery mood, and characteristically without much grammar. You can read it here. Michael's TIME article, conversely, seems more polished (likely the result of some doctoring on TIME's behalf), and here he pays a homage to his idol and friend Patti Smith, who has been selected for "2011 TIME 100", a list of this year's most influential people, among, er, other things. Last year, Patti released a new book entitled Just Kids, which I believe is a memoir of sorts, although I haven't read it.

Mike and Peter have been rather quiet recently, but that's understandable considering the huge number of tours and concerts they have been participating in. The Baseball Project's new tour will be making a stop in Toronto (the rumour that Mike is replacing Peter on the tour may or may not be true, but Mike is definitely performing with the group), and our good friend Linda will be there to see the band rock out once more! Linda generously offered to take me with her to see them, but sadly I'm 1) not old enough to get in to the club they're playing in and 2) unable to afford the £1000 return flight to Canada. Some day, some day...

Yours truly,

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Joined R.E.M. WebRing

Hello folks! I am writing this to inform you that I have recently joined the R.E.M. WebRing. More updates will follow, but for the time being I'm trying to get the HTML to work, and in order to do that I must host a graphic in this post.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

New covers and collab info

Action shot! I think I'm playing Cuyahoga in this picture...

While I may not have much time for writing during this exam period, I have been able to make a few videos for my YouTube account. Due to the time-consuming nature of making tutorial videos, I've stuck to mostly covers, but I did have time to make my first ever bass 'how-to-play' in the form of Radio Free Europe. Here are the links to the new songs, listed below:

The cover of Wolves, Lower was particularly difficult to perform - the guitar part alone is complicated enough, but singing at the same time is nigh on impossible! In other news, we have been treated to some juicy information about the work currently being done by Peter Buck and Mike Mills. Mike has been busy as ever, appearing in a "Strings Extravaganza" at Mercer University, acting as MC for the night and also performing on piano. I've yet to find any good footage of the concert (the best I've had is a half-second shot of Mike playing midway through an advert for the show), but I shall keep looking.

Details have also emerged of a collaboration that took place last year between Saint John and the Revelations and Peter, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, which you can read about on his website here. Like before, we are sketchy on details and unaware of what was recorded and played, but hopefully some audio from the sessions in Seattle will make their way to us hardcore fans eventually!

Finally, we return to Mike, and the recent news that he will be joining Peter, Scott and The Baseball Project for their "Regular Season" tour. That's right, folks - the Project are hitting the road once again, barely a month after their last outing, the "Cactus League" tour. Although I can't say for sure, my guess is that Mike will be on keyboards, but whether he will be playing every show or just some is unclear.

It seems everybody's been pretty busy lately, but what about Michael? Since his BBC 6 Music interview, no mention of him has appeared anywhere. He's probably trying to get rid of all that jetlag. :)

Yours truly,

Monday, 18 April 2011

Live @ The Shore + Exams part deux (Now updated with links 23/4/11)

As much as I've been trying to put it off, exam time is rearing its ugly head once more, this time for real. Starting May 4th, the following month will be filled with stress and underprepared students as the population of Great Britain attempts to pass the tests set before it.

So, with that cheery note aside, onto some important information! Three days ago (15th April) I performed a gig at a Dundee club with my friend Robbie, who joined me midway through the set. Because this was an acoustic show, and pretty much solo, I had the freedom at play whatever I wanted for however long I wanted to. And what better for a hardcore R.E.M. fan to play than... some R.E.M.? :) Here's the setlist in full:

1. I Am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel cover)
2. ÜBerlin (R.E.M.)
4. We Were Young (original song, the first time ever played!)
Robbie came on for the next four:
5. Beautiful Day (U2)
6. (Don't Go Back to) Rockville (Dedicated to Mike Mills Tribute and REMFan.It)
7. Use Somebody (Kings of Leon)
8. The One I Love (in swing rhythm, like the bonus track on the IRS Document re-issue!)

I'll be posting links as I upload them to my YouTube account, so check back. Now, I think I best get some revision done. The exams are only a few days away, after all!

Yours truly,

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

New project for the Auctioneer!

There comes the time in each person's life where anonymity cannot be sustained. The fact is, I am just too overcome by the desire to look stupid on camera than I am... well, not to be. That's why I've started up my own covers/teaching project on YouTube, which you can find here. On this page, I will be recording cover versions and how-to-play videos of R.E.M. songs, in no particular order - this is really more of an arbitrary thing!

My first video was in December of last year, when I recorded a 'how-to-play' of Discoverer. While I initially intended to leave it at that, the video gained popularity, and so I decided to make a few more. Also of note is the fact that my Discoverer video was the first non-R.E.M. video of that song on YouTube. That was why I made it. :P

Above are the videos I've made so far: 'how-to-plays' to Wolves, Lower and Discoverer, and covers of Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I and Moral Kiosk. I hope you enjoy them, and requests are always welcome. Over and out!

Yours truly,

Friday, 8 April 2011

Off on holiday (Happy Birthday R.E.M.!)

I'm outta here!
Hello all, just a quick post this time. Just to let everyone know that Auctioneer (that is to say, me) will be off on holiday to sunny England from today until Monday. So, although plenty will happen in the R.E.M. world while I'm gone, I'm sure dedicated fans such as myself will have no trouble catching up!

I'd also like to say happy birthday to the band - on April 5th it was their 31st anniversary of making great music together, and we have much to be thankful for. Let's hope we can enjoy many more years of epic rocking from Michael, Peter and Mike!

Now, where's my sun tan lotion? ;)

Yours truly,

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Ooh, looky! Predictive search!

Click on the image to zoom.
A small victory, perhaps, but a very rewarding one. As I was checking the traffic coming to this blog via that handy stat counter, I decided to see if my search results would appear on Google's predictive search (getting "Auctioneer's R.E.M. Blog" onto the predictive search is something I've been trying to do for months). What do you know - it was there! Auctioneer's R.E.M. Blog is now on the map, as far as I'm concerned, and I'd like to thank all my visitors to this site for its appearance on the Google search engine. Eagle-eyed fans may also spot Ivana's website slightly further down the results page. ;)

Yours truly,

P.S. Interestingly enough, if one was to search for Michael Stipe website by typing in "confessions of a Michael Stipe", my website is the 6th one down linking to this post. Hey, maybe Michael types his own website's name into Google... maybe he's seen this blog? I'd like to think so!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

New side project?

Err... nope. :)

Unfortunately, it was all a big April Fools' joke played by the team at R.E.M. HQ, who decided to post an article announcing the formation of a new group led by Mike and Michael, called "The Hockey Boys". For the record, I wasn't tricked for a second, as I was already feeling suspicious after another incident earlier that day, the details of which will remain unpublished. :)

The article, which you can find here, states that the new band are currently auditioning drummers and will possibly name their first album Me, Mike Mills, Gordie Howe and Us (no bonus points as to which R.E.M. song they are referring to here!). On the whole, it's a very well-written and funny piece, but part of me does wish it was true.

This isn't the first time the band's office in Athens has played a trick on us - take for example the article last year which read "R.E.M. changes name - now to be known as REM". I would post a link here but, rather irritatingly, the R.E.M. HQ just went down. You'll just have to trust me on this one!

Now, as I said a few posts ago, I intended to revisit Collapse Into Now and see if my song order (best to worst) had changed since last week. For those of you who are too lazy to scroll down, here was my original order:

1. It Happened Today 
2. Uberlin
3. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I
4. Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter
5. Discoverer
6. Walk it Back
7. Mine Smell Like Honey
8. Blue
9. That Someone is You
10. All the Best
11. Oh My Heart
12. Every Day is Yours to Win

And so, here is my new order:

1. It Happened Today (still a winner!)
2. Uberlin
3. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I
4. That Someone is You
5. Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter
6. Mine Smell Like Honey
7. Discoverer
8. Every Day is Yours to Win
9. Walk It Back
10. All the Best
11. Blue 
12. Oh My Heart 

There doesn't appear to be much difference, but I had a huge problem in making this one. Most of the songs (particularly 7 onwards) are fairly equal in terms of quality, so it was a tough decision. I surprised how much Every Day is Yours to Win has grown on me, but I knew Oh My Heart would be at the bottom of the list before I started. My favourites have not budged, and my top three is still the same.

Perhaps at the end of the month I'll revisit the list one more time, but I'm fairly certain it'll change again and again, and a definitive order will be impossible to create. That can only be a good thing!

Yours truly,

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Big Stars playing Big Star

A great shot of the crowded stage.
It's been a long time since my last post, and I'd like to apologise for that. As always, the stresses and strains of everyday life keep me way too busy for my own good, and my blood pressure's probably extremely high right now. But it's a comfort to know that across the ocean, a whole lotta rockin' is going down.

We've all been aware for a while now of Mike's intended participation in the tribute to Third/Sister Lovers (an album by the short-lived group Big Star), and soon after Michael jumped on the musical bandwagon and announced that he too would sing in the concert. I am now happy to report that things went swimmingly, and you can view their contributions in the videos below! In addition, Mike was part of the house band, playing bass for what I believe to be the entire gig.

Reviews have been pouring in of the gig, and so far there has not been a single negative review between them. To quote a review published by The Examiner: "What a night!"

Meanwhile, the Baseball Project are still touring, with performances planned in Los Angeles (The Echo, 31st March) and San Francisco (Slims, 2nd April), to name but a few. Before that, however, the group have been doing the rounds in Arizona, performing in places such as Scottsdale and Tucson. This was particularly exciting news for me, as I visited most of these places during my holiday to America last year, and can identify with some of the locations in these towns.

Alas, I speculate that Peter may be slightly disillusioned with the seemingly unending task of touring, as he has now taken on a 'biker' look, complete with a leather jacket and facial hair. Err... rock on?

I jest - he looks fine! Although after some of the slack Michael got recently, I'd consider losing the beard. ;)

Yours truly,

Friday, 18 March 2011

Slow news day

A photo from Linda's Athens trip. Bill and Mike appeared later on in the set.

In what appears to have been a fairly normal week in the R.E.M. world, I am relieved that not too much has happened in my absence. The past week has been totally nuts, with more rehearsals, competitions and exams than I could have possibly comprehended - and there's still more to come on Sunday! Hell, I'll probably live... but three hours of singing Handel's Messiah seems like a tall order for a rookie such as myself.

Anyway, you didn't come here to listen to me rabbit on about how my life was! On to R.E.M.-related news.

First of all, Linda's diary of her visit to Georgia is now on Mike Mills Tribute, along with some fancy pictures (like the one above) documenting her stay. I recommend you take a look, and go green with envy when she gets to the part about meeting Mike Mills. Click here to see it.

The Baseball Project's Cactus tour is still going strong, as expected. They've currently landed in Austin, TX for the SXSW (South By South West) festival which is held there every year, and Michael Stipe is also in town on separate business holding a Collapse Into Now film premiere party, much like the one Ivana attended not long ago. Could there be a possible guest appearance in the works? We certainly shouldn't rule it out.

On the subject of films, it appears that a certain Mr Franco has so far been unsuccessful in delivering his two videos for the album, namely That Someone Is You and Blue. Also not yet finished is Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I, directed by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan. However, I still hold out hope for Franco's pieces - sometimes good things just take time!

The video for All the Best has also been recently released. You can view it below, along with an interview with Michael about the film, which starts at 6:49. WARNING: Nudity and, err... blood(?) present in the music video. Watch at your own discretion.

There is one last thing I'd like to add, then I'll be on my way. A short while ago I made a post on the great site  about the rankings for the album Collapse Into Now. Here was my order of songs, from favourite to least favourite:

1. It Happened Today (the vocal jam and rich instrumentation makes this one a winner in my book!)
2. Uberlin (spacey synthesisers and soaring Mills vocals... totally)
3. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I (this is bizarre. I keep wondering why I like this song... but I can't explain it. I just do)
4. Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter (Peaches does wonders for this track)
5. Discoverer (a rocking opener to R.E.M.'s best ever album)
6. Walk it Back (had this song stuck in my head for an ENTIRE day)
7. Mine Smell Like Honey (initially disappointed, but I now like it for what it is)
8. Blue (really cool, but you can't sing along to it per se)
9. That Someone is You (a bit short, but catchy nevertheless)
10. All the Best (the chorus drum groove is just awesome! The rest is interesting too)
11. Oh My Heart (was never a huge fan of "Houston" and slow R.E.M. ballads, but this one is quite nice)
12. Every Day is Yours to Win (just not as good as the others)

It's always been my theory that opinions and rankings will vary wildly from one day to the next, with the final order after a week being totally different from the initial one. So, I propose an experiment. I go on with my life, listening to the record, and I'll post my new ranking in 7 days. Then we'll see how it varies. Until then!

Yours truly,

Sunday, 13 March 2011

What a month! What a year!

A summary of what's been going on this month, organised into a montage by me.

We're only thirteen days in, and already so much has happened this March. It seems that everybody in the R.E.M. fan community has been given something special by the band, myself and my friends no exception. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg, and we're all still looking forward to even more from the group. Here's the lowdown on what they've done for us over the past few months:

Lyric videos of Oh My Heart and Discoverer released (the latter song being free to download in December), along with singles Mine Smell Like Honey and ÜBerlin. A 'live in studio' video for Oh My Heart was also released at the end of the month, filmed last June at Hansa Studios in Berlin.

Collapse Into Now becomes available to pre-order. Oh My Heart becomes free to download at Amazon for a limited period of time, and the film for Mine Smell Like Honey is released online. Interviews are abound, and fans start getting agitated about the wait. Jacknife Lee gives us a chance to 'R.E.M.IX' It Happened Today by releasing the multitracks for us to download. Early streams of Collapse Into Now are hosted, and more 'live in studio' videos become available. Ivana's piano cover of Discoverer makes the R.E.M. news round-up.

More films arrive, each for a different song on the album. on March 7th, Collapse Into Now is released in the UK! Michael appears at the Tibet House Benefit concert, performing Every Day is Yours to Win. Reviews come flooding in, every one at least three stars of more. The iTunes LP version of the album comes out, with loads of goodies. And of course, more 'live in studio' videos - a bootlegger's dream.

And here's where it starts getting interesting for our team of fans here on the Internet:

Auctioneer joins a live chat on Dazed Digital and talks to Michael Stipe! (Link)
Kirsten and Dol have their translations linked by The Guardian on an R.E.M. article! (Link)
Ivana goes to London, watches films from CIN and actually speaks to Stipe in the flesh! (Link)
Linda heads off to the 40 Watt Club, Athens to see Mike, Peter, Bill Berry and Scott McCaughey live in The Baseball Project, and actually meets Mike! (Link)
Remmo and Kugat's new website receives a huge increase in traffic thanks to their hard work!

And if that isn't reason to celebrate, then I don't know what is.

I'm beginning to see Collapse Into Now as 'the people's album', if you catch my meaning. R.E.M. have involved their fans in so many ways over the past couple of months - through the mediums of art, discussion and remixes, they have connected with us in a way that has never happened to this extent before. In 2008 Vincent Moon allowed us to make video remixes of Supernatural Superserious, and an Accelerate tour website was created, but other than that I struggle to recall much else in the way of band/fan interaction. But this time around, the conventional barriers have been broken, and now we're feeling closer than ever to our favourite group.

Yours truly,

UPDATE: I have just found out, thanks to some photos on Facebook, that Bill Berry was drumming at the 40  Watt 4 hours ago (12th March in the USA, which of course has just happened)! If I get permission to use them here, check beck soon and I'll have them.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Me, Michael Stipe, Michael Stipe and I...

Michael trying to keep track of all the questions sent to him.

I'd like to start off by saying that today has been a great day, and it's all thanks to DazedDigital. To begin, we were given a new film from Collapse Into Now - which up until earlier today had been a tight-lipped secret. However, I can now reveal it to be Walk It Back:

As much as I'd like to review this video, I'm having trouble loading it. The opinion of the majority seems to be that it is utter crap, but I'll leave you to decide that. Anyway, we still have much to get through!

The next thing that DazedDigital gave us was perhaps the most unique and special one of all. If you weren't aware of it, then I'll fill you in. R.E.M. fans at 1pm GMT were given the opportunity to actually participating in a live chat with Michael Stipe himself! Even if that didn't set your pulse racing, it was for me at least the cause of some extreme excitement. I knew I had to be there this time - I became a fan in 2009, just after the Accelerate tour, the Supernatural Superserious video remixes, the TV performances... I was crushed when I found out what I had missed. This time, I vowed that things would be different.

Sadly, there were a number of obstacles that stood in my way:
1. The chat was during school time, at lunch.
2. Facebook, which was being used for the chat, is blocked in my school.
3. The sheer number of people that were bound to arrive if I didn't get there early would mean I wouldn't be able to get on the chat.

Something had to be done. Thankfully, my mum is a teacher at the school I go to, meaning I could use her login in which Facebook is not blocked. However, I just had to trust my luck with 3 and in the case of 1, I just missed lunch and prayed that the room containing the computer I was using would not be discovered by a teacher. The plan was in place, but concentrating during the morning classes was near to impossible. The clock ticked idly by, prolonging my suffering time and time again. Nerves shook my body. I needed to be there!

Surprisingly, I turned out to be the second person to arrive at the chat, despite it being on eight minutes before  Michael was due to arrive. Soon though, the conversation was flooded with people from many countries (I counted at least three from the UK). One of the employees at DazedDigital informed the wildly-expanding crowd that Stipe was on his way to the company's offices in London, and he would be about five minutes.

Alas, at 1:10, ten minutes after the start time, there was still no sign of our favourite frontman. I did my best to help keep the crowd busy, asking questions such as what everyone thought of the album, who was a fanclubber here, what their favourite song from Collapse Into Now was etc. (The answers to the latter question, if you're interested, seemed to be mostly UBerlin.) But even with a healthy conversation going, it was easy to tell we were getting agitated. Where was he? Where was Michael Stipe?

At eighteen minutes past one, we got our wish. A user, "Rem Dazed", appeared on the chat - his profile pic was of the man himself. He was here, at last! Instantly, the whole chatroom went crazy, overwhelmed with excitement and happiness at his arrival, myself included. We thanked him for giving us the chance to talk to him, and told him what we thought of the new album. He thanked us for our comments on Collapse Into Now (which were, of course, extremely favourable) and allowed us to ask our questions.

To be perfectly honest I didn't even expect a reply. There were so many there that the school's crummy Internet connection almost couldn't handle it. Fingers crossed, I posted my comment:

"I have a question about the sound of the album, which is very ambient. Did you know early on how you wanted it to sound, or did it just develop naturally?"*

My comment disappeared under a mound of others. No way was he going to see my question. But it turned out I was wrong:

"to Lewis, we had no idea what is was going to sound like.."

My heart skipped a beat. Not only did Michael personally answer my question, my question was the first one he answered.

And he used my name.

Instantly, I was hit with elation. It was all worthwhile - I chatted to Michael Stipe! He answered my question first! He used my name! (Which you now all know. Sigh - that's what I get for directly quoting.)

To any casual or non-R.E.M. fan, this whole thing probably doesn't sound like a big deal. But to me, the boy who has spent literally months living and breathing the band, it has been the highest point in my fandom so far. Soon, more people joined, my Internet connection slowed even more - something that didn't even seem possible - and Michael was struggling to cope with the sheer amount of traffic on the chatroom. The poor guy was forced to answer questions from five minutes ago. It was hectic.

But a lot of good questions were answered in this chat. Here's a couple of pieces of interesting information that came from the event:

  • Michael uses an iPhone and a Canon G10 when taking photos.
  • According to Stipe: "Aligator is one of three songs in what we laughingly refer to as the 'testosterone trilogy'"
  • He recorded a duet with Courtney Love not long ago (UPDATE: Last week, as it turned out).
  • Newest music on his iPhone: The Knife, Die Antword, Grizzly Bear, Karen Elson, The National, Peaches, Salem, Tired Pony,  Walkmen, INXS, Courtney Love, Brian Eno, Burial, Alva Noto.
  • Confirmation that Oh My Heart is a sequel to Houston.

He even answered a second question of mine! I asked him what his website, was about. If you've ever been there, I'm sure you'll understand why I raised this question. Again, in his own words:

" is a record of a year of looking at my computer"
Pretty neat stuff, eh? Sadly, my school's Internet packed in about two-thirds of the way through the chat. But I was happy. He spoke to me - as cheesy as it sounds, I think everyone there today was especially pleased of connecting with Michael. I know I was!

Finally, as if that wasn't enough, DazedDigital gave us another video - Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter:

Err... interesting! Its weirdness reflects the strange lyrics, in a way.

So, that's it for now. My adrenaline has fuelled with writing of this post, but I must go as Michael is appearing on The One Show in 15 minutes. Apologies for making you sit through my giddy speech, but I'm riding the excitement 5 hours later. Goodbye!

Yours truly,

*This may not be the actual wording I used. Thankfully, I have a saved copy of what I typed, so I'll update this page later with what I said.

UPDATE 2: Here's a couple of screenshots I took of the chat, with Stipe answering my questions. Just in case you doubted me!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A new look for "Auctioneer's R.E.M. Blog" + Why you should go deluxe


Hi all. As you may have noticed, Auctioneer's R.E.M. Blog has changed slightly from its usual format. The normal title image (of the band playing at Hansa studios) has been removed for the time being and replaced with a brand-spanking shiny new one to celebrate the release of Collapse Into Now. This alteration is only temporary - it'll only be up for the next week or so - but I just felt that this was the time to show the band how much I enjoy their new album! :)

I had a great time last night listening to the record, but I couldn't help feeling a little spoilt by the great bonuses I received by buying the deluxe edition from iTunes. By purchasing the iTunes LP for £10.99, you don't just get the three 'live in studio' bonus tracks offered (although buying it with the deluxe album still constitutes a better deal than going for the normal version and buying those extra tracks separately). In fact, I was incredibly surprised with what I finally found once I had downloaded. Here's the lowdown:

  • The official 12 Collapse Into Now songs (duh!)
  • Three 'live in studio' songs: Discoverer, Oh My Heart and Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter
  • A new, previously unseen live in studio video for That Someone is You
  • Lyrics to all the songs on the record
  • Publicity photos of the band
  • Liner notes written by producer Jacknife Lee
  • An awesome user interface to package it all up in!

Another interesting point of note is in the credits for the album, which lists one of the technical assistants as DeWitt Burton. Doesn't sound very attention-grabbing, until you realise that R.E.M. played at his wedding in 2005! Lucky guy!

On the whole, the iTunes LP sounds like a pretty amazing deal for a hardcore R.E.M. fan. Of course, for the average viewer, the normal version would almost certainly suffice, and for £7.99 it's not to be sniffed at considering the quality of songwriting present on Collapse Into Now. Fans will love it, those who prefer 'old-school' R.E.M. and can't get over Bill Berry's departure will hate it, and most of the general public will wonder what all the fuss is about. But in my opinion, it's worth every penny. ;)

Finally, I have a little bit of news courtesy of - the latest video to come from the CIN film project will be aired on Dazed Digital, Thursday afternoon. Stay tuned for a link, and possibly even a review!

Yours truly,

UPDATE: Why does this keep happening - I write a post about an upcoming event, and then suddenly the event happens an hour later! Get over to IFC and watch the film of Oh My Heart!

Monday, 7 March 2011

It's HERE!!! It's finally HERE!!!

This album is awesome. Buy it, or I'll set Michael Stipe on you.

My life is crazy right now, so this post is all I can do as of yet. All I want to say is that Collapse Into Now has finally graced the shores of the UK! My iTunes pre-order, made months in advance, has finally come through and the deluxe edition of the album is downloading right now.

Look out world, here it comes - R.E.M. is back.

Yours truly,

Thursday, 3 March 2011

"It Happened Today" music video

Sure, he looks sweet, but he's actually a pyromaniac.
We have some progress! As you may recall, yesterday I went on a bit of a tirade against the music video for Überlin, which was meaningless and not even in time with the song (the latter issue I hammered home enormously, but that was mostly for comedic effect). The point was, it just wasn't relevant.

Now, however, we see an improvement with It Happened Today, along with the news that there will be a video for every track on the new album, each to be directed by different film-makers. In this new offering, the story seems relatively simple. A child wakes up in the morning and is bored with the monotony of his day (shown by the greyscale effect present in the first part of the film), until he has some sort of revelation and goes out into the snow. There, he befriends some sheep and a dog and finds a mysterious box with some roses in it... as you do. Cut to night time, and a hunter is watching the child set fire to one of his roses, which he then uses to light a hay bale before he runs away gleefully. He goes home, and the greyscale returns as he drifts off to sleep.

So, what do we get from the story, apart from that the child is obviously dangerously obsessed with flames? Well, on a serious note, this film fits the music much better than Überlin did. We get a feeling, partly due to the expression of realisation on the boy's face and the immediate transition into colour, that something really is happening here. Rather than make a video to fit the 3:47 track running time, the director (Tom Gilroy) has actually used the multitracks to remix the song, and push the music to just over six minutes. This gives him time to develop the plot, although what the true meaning of this plot is still eludes me.

NME has revealed the names of all the directors participating in this art project. Here they are in full:

  • Discoverer - Michael and Lynda Stipe
  • All the Best - James Herbert
  • Überlin - Sam Taylor Wood
  • Oh My Heart - Jem Cohen
  • It Happened Today - Tom Gilroy
  • Every Day is Yours to Win - Jim McKay, Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch
  • Mine Smell Like Honey - Dominic DeJoseph
  • Walk It Back - Sophie Calle
  • Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter - Lance Bangs
  • That Someone is You - James Franco
  • Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I - Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan
  • Blue - James Franco
I, for one, am particularly excited about the choice of director in two cases, for the simple reason that I think James Franco is a fantastic actor. Naturally, that may not mean he's a good director, but Michael must have faith in him if he's directing both That Someone is You and Blue. Incidentally, Michael is pairing up with his sister Lynda for Discoverer.

If you haven't seen Franco in his latest film, 127 Hours, then I implore you to do so. His acting ability is so great, that I nearly cried at the end of the movie. And no, I'm not ashamed in the slightest to say it!

Oh, you want to see It Happened Today as well as read about it? Well, here you go. :)

Before I go, there's one last thing I'd like to mention. I could be wrong on this one, but do I get the feeling that Gilbert is paying homage to Stipe at 1:21. The action the girl uses here is almost identical to that used by Michael himself during most live versions of Man on the Moon:

This could be an interesting point. If you have any thoughts on it, feel free to contact me. Until next time!

Yours truly,

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


The free Überlin giveaway at iTunes UK can't have been a coincidence, as immediately following that comes a new music video for the song. Many R.E.M. fans around the Internet are unhappy that they don't get to see the whole band - so far we've just had Michael being carried upstairs by a group of men, in black and white. As interesting an experiment as it was, we wanted something a bit more mainstream... and something which Peter and Mike could be involved in too.

Sadly, our prayers have not yet been answered - in fact, the complete opposite has happened. Not even Michael appears in the new music video, as he has instead given complete artistic control to another director, by the name of Sam Taylor-Wood, who in turn has decided to create a video revolving around a man (Aaron Johnson) dancing down a street in London. Not only that, but it's her boyfriend!

He's wearing an R.E.M. T-shirt. That's about where the connections between the video and the music end.

Oh yeah, and it's not even in time with the song.

Granted, some of the moves Johnson pulls off are nothing short of spectacular, involving flipping himself around a lamp post and jumping over a bicycle. Never in a million years could I do that! But the point is, the concept is all wrong. The character portrayed in the song Überlin seems to me like a reserved, tired individual, who is looking for solitude - the last thing I would expect him to do is strut down a street pulling off dance moves and doing squirrel impressions (see above). No... this is just all wrong. And did I say it wasn't even time with the song?

There's a place for obscure art in this world, and there's a place for things that appeal to the general public. Music videos fall under the latter category, an idea which R.E.M. sometimes just don't get - in 1984, the first twenty minutes of Reckoning were put to film. The video was - wait for it - the band members walking round a farm.  Well, perhaps I'm being too harsh here, as it was quite a good movie, with interesting camera effects and editing, but the public at large would not want to see Left of Reckoning (for that was its name). No, what they wanted was something like Man on the Moon, with Peter serving drinks at a bar and Millsy shooting pool! Or was that just me?

Überlin was a fantastic, emotive and moody song, a quality lost as soon as you press 'play' on the flash player. The video, for UK users, can be found here.

Now, as my hand is cramping (thanks to a massive post I did last night on Collapse Into Now), coupled with the fact that my doctor has warned me of repetitive strain injury, I think I'll stop there... but not before sharing with you my favourite R.E.M. music video: Near Wild Heaven. Check it out - it's much better than the band's most recent offering.

And have I mentioned it wasn't even in time with the song?

Yours truly,

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

First impressions of Collapse Into Now, as it happens!

Hello again once more to everyone out there on the Internet! This may be quite a short post*, as this is going to be written 'live', in a way. Over on NPR  fans of the band are getting a free one-time only stream of Collapse Into Now, and my plan for this blog post is to write my impressions of each song as it comes. However, this is one-time only, which means I won't be able to do any detailed analysis, plus my comments may be of varying length depending on how fast I can type! Here I go:

DISCOVERER: Ahh, the classic. Nothing much else to say here! (UPDATE: Read my review from January if you're interested in a detailed look.)

ALL THE BEST: Woah, sweet. Slightly dissonant, reminds me of Accelerate - the song. Mills has a groovy chorus bassline, and there's a nice high guitar drone from Buck/McCaughey. Stipe sounds like he's rapping!
The bridge is nothing like I've ever heard from R.E.M. before. Oh man, that is an awesome breakdown! Geez, I wish you guys were here to hear this....

UBERLIN: I've already reviewed this song at length, too. Check out my review, if you wish. This song is still as melancholy and moody as ever. Mike is on top form, providing a vocal contrast to Michael. Would have been nice to have the guitars just a little lower in the mix, but hey. The synths are nice, not too overpowering, and they give the track a spacey feel, which in turn is boosted by the lyrics e.g. "star", "meteor".
Best bit: "We walk to the streets to feel the ground I'm chasing, Uberlin." :)

OH MY HEART: I've never been a fan of most R.E.M. ballads, but this one's okay - like Houston but with acoustic guitars and undistorted snares. Probably a track I'd usually skip over on my iPod. The Mills/McCaughey harmonies are just a bit too free-flowing for my liking, and the mandolin is another instrument I'm not too fond of here. Despite this, it's still a lovely ballad, and the three singers sound emotive and meaningful.

IT HAPPENED TODAY: After hearing the multitracks, it's amazing what you can pick out once you know it's there. Three bass synths, three mandolins, ambient drone guitars... hell, even two pianos! This is undoubtedly my favourite song out of all those I've heard so far, but All the Best comes pretty close. Ooh, here comes Vedder...

EVERY DAY IS YOURS TO WIN: New song! Opens with a clean, relaxed guitar. Stipe's got a delay effect, like in Drive. Rieflin has some great low drums here, and Buck has a finger-picking section that arrives around the second verse.  Wow... didn't expect that explosion of sound at the second chorus! The jump from that section into the bridge is a little awkward - it's like Good Vibrations. Mike's doing an "ahhhh" in he background during the part we've heard in the trailer, and the track smoothly segways into the previously-heard "hey-yeah"s. My least favourite song so far, but that doesn't mean I don't like it!

MINE SMELL LIKE HONEY: Now that I've heard it in higher quality (my iPod has a rubbish copy), Mine Smell Like Honey actually sounds pretty good. Not exactly up to the standard of most of the record so far, but it fits in comfortably with All the Best and Discoverer, the two rockers. Tremolo guitar at the end, which you may not have noticed.

WALK IT BACK: Sounds kinda... country... Walk It Back has a relaxed feel to it - the piano part heard here was actually a rehearsal. There's nothing much here in this track initially: piano, acoustic guitar, vocals, but it builds up. Mike's currently wailing in the background (not in the bad sense, mind)! This feels like something The Eagles would release in the 2000s, only better. Ambient noise in the background, reminds me of Uberlin, or that dubmix on the Christmas single.

ALLIGATOR AVIATOR AUTOPILOT ANTIMATTER: Ka-pow! Double-tracked vocals, overdriven guitars, octave bass... the song seeps rock! Peaches was an unexpected surprise the second part of verse one, but you get used to her. This is head-banger, all right, and such a catchy riff. Peaches has a spoken section during the bridge. "STARED AT ME!" was a great moment, and the constant rhyming gives the song a feeling of urgency. Great track.

THAT SOMEONE IS YOU: Starts off a standard pop/rock song, and doesn't really do anything else. Harmonies are nice, and the lyrics are refreshing (Pacino? Torino?). But gee, it's short! I can't type this fast... my head hurts....

ME, MARLON BRANDO, MARLON BRANDO AND I: Slow start, sustained piano and mandolin are interesting instruments. The 12-string and string sections come in, and Marlon Brando now feels like a mourning song, devoid of drums and 'rock' instruments. The change from verse to chorus is an odd sensation, which I can't really explain. Mills has a cool backing vocal after the second chorus, present pretty far on both sides of the pan.

BLUE: FEEDBACK! The chord progression and song in general reminds me of another R.E.M. song, but I can't put my finger on it. Orange Crush-style speaking at the beginning. Patti Smith sounds like an alien, and metallic percussion and distorted guitars place the listener in an industrial/wet setting. Does that make sense? Probably not.
And there are the immortal words... Collapse. Into. Now.
Finally, we can hear what Patti is singing, but "Cinderella Boy" may come as a surprise to some who expected a more straightforward song.

Wait a sec... Discoverer!?! Aw man, that is soooo.... cool! Building up, and up - Mike enters - main riff - Michael shouting his vocals at the top of his range... this is something not to be missed.

Wow. That was hard. But let me tell you this - Collapse Into Now may just be one of the best R.E.M. albums I've ever heard. I'd hesitate to say original, despite the great songs, because the band pays homage to many of its past records. Collapse has the rockiness of Accelerate, the electronica of Up, even the jangliness of Murmur occasionally... I could go on, but then again, you could just see for yourselves when you buy the album. Rest assured, it's fantastic!

Yours truly,

P.S. Figured out the song that Blue sounds like. It's Country Feedback mixed with E-bow the Letter!

*Well, I thought it would be at least. How wrong I was...

Friday, 25 February 2011

Countdown Into Now

As I write this, we have approximately 4 days until we get to listen to Collapse Into Now in its entirety, and, according to Dol: "Just one week, 7 days, 168 hours, 10.080 minutes, 604.800 seconds" before we can all get our greasy paws on it to keep. Yep, we're ready for this album!

Which is why we don't have to wait to buy it, to hear it. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, we only need to hang in there a few more days. NPR is hosting a CIN listening party online, with the album being streamed live to fans across the Internet. Also available to those who tune in is a chat feature for discussion of each track, and live commentary from the show's hosts (I hope I'm wrong on this one, but I have reason to believe this commentary will be present during the playback. No taping this one, folks!).

The broadcast will take place on Tuesday 1st March, at 2pm E.T., which for those of you living in the UK is 9am. However, should you miss All Songs Considered, the whole album will be available for listening on March 2nd - free of charge!

This isn't the only good news we've had today. Roughly an hour ago, R.E.M.'s YouTube channel posted a higher quality version of the Mine Smell Like Honey live in studio video. Here it is:

Kirsten on Mike Mills Tribute has been doing a sterling job translating some articles for us, from the German version of Rolling Stone magazine. Find them here, and don't forget to drop her a note of thanks! (Also check the comments section for a few more translated tidbits.)

Now all that's left is the agonising wait until the album arrives. I've been trying to keep myself busy, as always, but sometimes the tension and anticipation is almost too much to bear. Collapse Into Now? More like Collapse Into Shock. Due to this lack of any real news, I hope to do a feature sometime very soon - possibly this weekend - and possibly even begin a little project I've been contemplating. Until I have a proper think about it, however, mum's the word. :)

Yours truly,

Note: There seems to be some really weird spacing here - the gaps between paragraphs are huge! Doing my best to fix it, but this may take some time.

UPDATE: Fixed! It's amazing what deleting a bit of HTML can do. :)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Exams finished (finally) - News roundup + video reviews

Click on the image to find out why I'm happy. :)

As I sit down comfortably on my computer chair once again, I breathe a sigh of relief, content with the knowledge that my exams are over and done with. I do have one more day left of German exams, but they're not the kind you can really revise for.

Which means I can get back to what I really enjoy - blogging! Sadly, during my absence (I did, however, post a couple of bootlegs - just scroll down) much has happened in the R.E.M. world. Although I only mentioned it in a small update earlier last week, I am pleased to once again relay the fact that our good friend Ivana from Mike Mills Tribute has once again made the news at R.E.M. HQ, with her amazing cover of Discoverer from the new album! By major coincidence I was browsing the site at the time the news was posted on the HQ. I was bored, so a refreshed the page, and a weekly roundup popped up out of nowhere. Curious, I clicked on it, and down at the bottom of the article was Ivana's link! Naturally, I raced over to Mike Mills Tribute and, in a whirlwind of exclamation marks and smiley faces, I told her the news. :)

This isn't the first time Ivana's been on R.E.M. HQ, however - last year, her cover of Wolves, Lower, recorded to celebrate the band's 30th anniversary, was also picked up by the kind folk at the R.E.M. offices in Georgia. You can see the video here.

But that's not all! Recently, the band released some new interview material via various websites, plus a live video of Mine Smell Like Honey. While the interviews themselves don't tell us very much, the "making of" video gives us our first ever glimpse of All the Best, a song from Collapse Into Now which we hadn't heard before now. Below is the video on YouTube:

Not only that, but Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter (try saying that three times fast!) is featured a lot more heavily, with a little snippet of the previously-unheard chorus. I don't know about you, but I think this'll be a head-banger.

And of course, Mine Smell Like Honey is here. Despite my initial poor reviews of the song, I had always maintained the belief that it would sound much better live, much like I'm Gonna DJ from Accelerate. I'm not normally one to blow my own trumpet, but it looks like I was right on this one!

Michael's voice has a much more gravelly, rock-style tone than in the studio version - his vocals on the record sound like a smoker whose voice is giving out. Granted, Stipe does smoke, but I've never noticed it prior to MSLH. Also, that third backing vocal has gone, allowing us to at last clearly hear Mike's harmonies. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad that extra vocal isn't there. This song has been around since the days of Accelerate - I have two recordings of an instrumental version that they played during the '08 tour - and in retrospect we can see the similarities. With heavy guitars, the band never staying too long on one musical idea... this could easily have been on the last album, were it not for the strange 'pop song' feel to it. Just a guess, but I think that may have been aided by the arpeggios that the lead guitar plays.

There are some other videos lurking around, but nothing that gives us anything really new. While I'm looking forward to Collapse Into Now, I'd rather the band stopped releasing content until March. Why, you ask? The answer is plain and simple - the more I hear songs from the album, the less I think I'll be blown away by it. And judging from what we've seen so far, that's exactly what the new record deserves: the opportunity to blow us away.

While we're on the subject, the first reviews have surfaced! Alas, so far they haven't been very positive. Q gives it just 2 stars, and UNCUT, while being a little more generous, still only gives the album 3 stars. Rolling Stone and Gigbless are the two reviews that are better-than-average, with 4 stars each! As for the bad reviews, I'd like to repost what I wrote on MMT on the subject yesterday, which pretty much sums up my feelings towards the press:
It seems that the press are just going to compare this album to the rest of R.E.M.’s back catalogue, which IMHO isn’t in the least bit fair. The band are probably never going to have another “Automatic for the People”, so why keep reminding us?
You really just can't compare R.E.M.'s latest ventures with the work they did in the 80s and 90s, because that was then and this is now. It's important to take their new albums at face value, rather than prattle on about how the band aren't relevant anymore. So what if Oh My Heart isn't as melancholy as Drive? So what if Discoverer isn't as politically charged and relevant as Finest Worksong? Besides, when you take all their albums from Up onwards, this is looking like it'll be the best yet.

Keep in mind this is just my opinion. I'm neither right or wrong on this one, and it's up to you how you see the band in the 21st century. Don't like Collapse Into Now? That's fine by me. But whatever you do, approach in the same way you should with all music - with an open mind.

Yours truly,

UPDATE: R.E.M. HQ has just posted a feature on Losing My Religion, in celebration of its 20th anniversary. Head over there and take a peek!

Friday, 18 February 2011

McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, 1987

One of two covers for this bootleg. The other is embedded in my audio file's tags, but I can't get it out. Should be there within the .rar file.
This is perhaps one of the rarest bootlegs I own, ever more rare than MTV Unplugged. However, anyone with the IRS Vintage edition of Document will have actually heard at least two of the songs on this record. Both The One I Love and Disturbance at the Heron House were featured on the re-release, and both originate from this show. I was under the impression that Time After Time/Red Rain/So. Central Rain was also from this show, but that was actually from Holland in the same year. The recordings on Document are of a much higher quality than the ones I have here, leading me to assume that somewhere somebody has the soundboard recording of the whole show. Will it ever see the light of day? Perhaps not. This bootleg features Peter and Michael on 12-string and vocals, respectively.

There's one other thing that makes this particular bootleg special, and that's the guests. This show is not actually an R.E.M. one - they were actually guests (they called them "The Mystery Twins") for a Steve Wynn performance, and so Leaving on a Jet Plane has Buck, Stipe, Natalie Merchant, Steve Wynn, Jenny Homer and Kendra Smith jamming all at once! A bootleg not to be missed.

Also: Maps and Legends can be heard on the IRS Vintage version of Fables of the Reconstruction, again in a state of much higher quality.

Bootleg details:
01 - The One I Love
02 - Welcome to the Occupation
03 - Disturbance at the Heron House
04 - Finest Worksong
05 - Maps and Legends
06 - Walk Don't Run/Baby Please Don't Go
07 - A Million Miles Away
08 - Trains
09 - The One I Love (played for a second time)
10 - Spooky
11 - Disturbance at the Heron House (again)
12 - Finest Worksong (if I was an audience member, I'd be getting a little bored with all these repeats)
13 - Fever
14 - So. Central Rain
15 - Leaving on a Jet Plane

Quality: B+
Rating:  - An excellent rare show, hampered only by its low quality. A must-have for those who want to hear rare acoustic versions of songs.


And we're done! I'll be on the lookout for the full show. I recently heard Wynn's early set, and he played See That My Grave is Kept Clean with Peter Buck on guitar. You can hear it here. Bye for now! :)

Yours truly,

UPDATE: Got a real gem here! Ivana over on Mike Mills Tribute has made me aware of a YouTube video of That Someone is You, recorded live in the studio for the Oh My Heart single. Listen to it here - it's short, but sweet and has a really rock/pop feel to it. Haven't really formulated an opinion on it, but I like it. Also, Ivana's piano cover of Discoverer has made the weekly roundup on R.E.M. HQ. Congratulations to her! :)