Saturday, 29 January 2011

"Oh My Heart" - Live!

Some great news for all of you who wanted to hear R.E.M. performing a live version of one of their songs from Collapse Into Now - Stereogum has finally posted a video of the band playing in Berlin, in the location featured in the trailer for the album.

Although we've yet to see the other songs they played, Oh My Heart is hopefully the first in a long line of them. As we can deduce from the trailer, the band played this song, Discoverer and Alligator Aviator Autopilot Anitmatter. We may not see these until March, but I am particularly excited about AAAA - it sounds like a rocker, even though the lyrical quality is questionable.

I also have some interesting news concerning the first single Mine Smell Like Honey. I was looking around for some bootlegs recently, and I stumbled on the soundchecks for the shows in Larcano and Prague. These soundchecks show that Mine Smell Like Honey had already been written - at least, in an instrumental sense - in 2008! There are no vocals in either recording, but the song is pretty much complete otherwise. I'll bundle it in with the next show I release on this blog, if you wish.

I guess there's nothing more for me to say here other than enjoy the video... so, enjoy the video! :)

Yours truly,

Thursday, 27 January 2011

"Überlin" review


Last night, heading back from a Vivaldi concert, my mum and I were playing some Simon and Garfunkel in the car (when I sing, I'm always Garfunkel!). I was about to change the disc when Hazy Shade of Winter came on, a song I'm not a huge fan of... but mum enjoys it so we left it on.

Thank goodness we did.

As soon as I removed the disc, the car player switched to radio, as it does automatically. A song was just starting, one which nearly caused my heart to skip a beat in my excitement. Mum, however, was confused.

"Auctioneer," she asked*, "did you just put on an R.E.M. CD?"

For an instant, the words could not leave my mouth - I was just too surprised to speak. But, as soon as it had come, the sensation passed, and I was able to joyfully announce the song:

"Oh my God! Mum, it's Überlin!"

And that was how I ended up listening to Überlin on BBC2 Radio, just as I had wished for a few days earlier in my previous blog post. In retrospect, I'm glad we listened to just one more Simon and Garfunkel song - otherwise, I would have changed the disc too early and missed the whole event. Don't get me wrong, Mrs Robinson is a great track, but Überlin is just too good an experience to miss.

Thanks to a leak, I managed to listen to the song a few days before it made its radio début, and I was astounded at the quality of the track. As some regular readers of this blog will know, I'm not a big fan of R.E.M.'s more sad songs, but there's something about Überlin that I just can't pin down. Is it the delay effect used on Michael's voice? Is it the subtle synth section that gives the chorus a strange ambience? Or is it Peter's simple guitar part, no effects added?

The truth is, it's probably a combination of all of these. A lot of people have compared this song to Automatic for the People's Drive, but apart from the consistent use of the word "hey" I can't say I fully agree. Sure, it's in a minor key, but Drive has got nothing on this piece. I feel I must congratulate Mike Mills on his fantastic harmonies and bass playing, two elements which are crucial to this track... but one of the stars of this song is, of course, Michael Stipe. The vocals in Überlin feel raw with emotion, leaps and bounds above those in the most recently released track, Mine Smell Like Honey.

Another thing that makes this song stand out is - surprisingly - the lyrics. Collapse Into Now has had lyrics of varying quality so far (think Mine Smell Like Honey again), but Michael brings back that wordsmith quality of his once more. Hearing Stipe and Mills singing "I am flying on a star into a meteor" is beautiful beyond comparison.

But there is one last thing that elevates this song above all the others. I have spent three tireless days in a vain attempt to work out just what it is, but I can't. Whenever I hear Überlin, my mind produces this vivid imagery that throws me somewhere completely new. I suppose the best way to give you the faintest notion of what I'm trying (but failing) to say is to give you a description. Here goes:

"It's 12:30 in the morning. There's a small breeze tickling my side as I lie on my back, on the top of the hill I always go to. Above me, the sky is clear, and the stars dance and sparkle in front of me. As I watch, I slowly drift away, feeling as if I am being pulled through space itself into the furthest reaches of the cosmos. I am cold, but even though the sensation of emptiness and minuteness ensnares my body, I am content."

Cheesy? You bet. But that really is what I feel when I hear this song. Naturally, I've never been on the top of a hill at 12:30am, and although I'm an amateur stargazer, the sensation of feeling tiny only comes to me occasionally. This imagery, however, is what will lead me to give Überlin the praise it deserves.

Überlin◊ - I just don't have the words to express my admiration for this song. Beautiful.

So after all that, I imagine you're curious as to why I didn't give the track five stars. Truth be told, I'm a little scared of doing that. If I gave Überlin five stars, then another song same along that was even better, I would have to stick with my initial rating and give loads of song on Collapse Into Now five stars. That just wouldn't be fair. So, when I do a full album review I may re-rate this track, but until then, four stars it is.

Yours truly,

*No, she didn't really call me that - she used my real name. I actually have one of those, believe it or not.

P.S. R.E.M. HQ has confirmed - turns out I was right about the U-Bahn. At least I know I'm not totally stupid! :)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Quickie: "Überlin" lyric video

Hey... that's pretty inventive.

Only got time for a quickie right now, but here's some interesting news in the form of a lyric video, for R.E.M.'s newest song Überlin. What separates this one from the others is its format - this time the video depicts a railway map similar to the Ü-Bahn (at least, I think it does), Berlin's underground subway. Also included in the release are producer Jacknife Lee's thoughts and opinions on the song.

To see the video, click here.

While I've yet to review Überlin, I did manage to hear it a couple of days early thanks to a leak from I think it's safe to say that this new song is going to be a major hit among fans... it's my favourite so far along with It Happened Today, in my book at least! I find it hard to describe just what makes this track so special - perhaps I'll know by the time I properly review it - but suffice to say, whatever it has, it flaunts it.

Yours truly,

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Cologne 2001: Roncalliplatz

Cover courtesy of the great people at R.E.M. Cover Studio (will add link to sidebar)
Here it is, as promised! This show really is one of the top-notch bootlegs in terms of quality - anyone would think it was actually an official live album. I realise that pretty much every bootleg I've uploaded I've given an A+ quality rating to... but that's deliberate, as I'm putting up my highest quality ones first. All that aside, let's get on to the details:

Bootleg details:
01 - The Great Beyond
02 - What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
03 - All the Way to Reno
04 - Cuyahoga
05 - Electrolite
06 - I've Been High
07 - Daysleeper
08 - The Lifting
09 - Find the River
10 - Imitation of Life
11 - I'll Take the Rain
12 - At My Most Beautiful
13 - The One I Love
14 - She Just Wants to Be
15 - Walk Unafraid
16 - Losing My Religion
17 - Man On the Moon
18 - So. Central Rain
19 - It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
20 - Superman (taken from Heidigretel's video of the Cologne Soundcheck - see my post on the 19th for the video)

Quality: A+ (Track 20 I'd give a B-)
Rating: ◊◊◊◊ - The guitars are a bit quiet, but Michael and Mike's vocals are clear as day. And that fruity organ we so love is there too!


That's it from me. Check back soon for that feature I promised you (woo!), and of course there'll be another bootleg on the way, too. Enjoy Cologne 2001 - I know I did.

Yours truly,

P.S. Just one more thing, for those of you who live in the UK. According to R.E.M. HQ, the as-of-yet unheard song Überlin will be played on the radio during the Ken Bruce show, from 9AM to 12 noon on Monday. Ireland has a similar opportunity on the Colm Hayes Show, from 12 o'clock onwards. Irritatingly, I'll be at school then and probably won't get to hear the track at all, but if anyone manages to listen to it, please get in touch and let us know your first impressions. Fingers crossed it'll be a good 'un!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Not another lyric video!

More of the same, but it's still pretty cool.

Now that Mine Smell Like Honey has finally graced the shores of our good friends in America, it only seems right that a new single should have a video to match. But Warner Bros. have decided not to involve R.E.M. in its music video creation, instead opting for... wait for it... another lyric video!

I'm not a big fan of these videos, but the first two (namely Discoverer and It Happened Today) had a fresh, unique feel to them. The concept seems simple enough - take the words to a song, mix them in with the themes employed by the album artwork, and there you have it: something cool to look at while you listen to the song, and you don't even have to Google the lyrics. While the Discoverer lyric video seemed more like an autocue to an expensive karaoke machine, It Happened Today's video was interesting to boot. There was something hypnotic about watching all those orange lines flying around while Stipe, Mills, Gibb and Vedder initiated their triumphant vocal celebration. Despite this, however, the video was still a novelty.

As an R.E.M. fan, I was disappointed with Around the Sun (who wasn't, eh?), but at least they put out some good music videos - Leaving New York was never a stand out track in my book, but I liked it a little more after seeing my favourite musicians sing it. So, I'd be lying if I said I was ecstatic about the new video, although at least the people who make them are still putting a lot of effort into it:

Like pretty much every song, I like it better when there's a video. Mine Smell Like Honey is a lot catchier when there's a visual aid to help you 'get' the music and lyrics, but there's still something missing. It won't take you long to guess what it is:

You got it - R.E.M.

The Collapse Into Now trailer was fun to watch, because even though the band were only pretending to play (or at least the studio tracks were dubbed over them), we fans could be comforted by the fact that R.E.M. were still there, and still rocking out. There's a strange familiar sensation that comes with seeing your favourite group, as I said before. So that's why I'm a little uneasy after seeing four new videos, and none of the guys whose music we've come to love.

It throws up a lot of questions in my mind, such as "Why are they not appearing? Are they tired of making music videos?", which then leads on to "Does this mean that they're tired of trying to boost publicity? Will this mean they won't tour?", and so on and so forth until I get to the unthinkable: "Will this be their last album?".

On that last question, we still don't know. Nor have we had any confirmation that the band will tour. Scott McCaughey says they won't, Peter Buck says they might, and the rest of us are just left rather bemused. It does seem, however, that there will be a schedule clash if they decide to tour this year - I recall reading that Mike Mills and The Baseball Project are going to be touring soon, and Scott always keeps himself busy with The Minus 5 and his many side-projects. Therefore, to that end we have no definitive answer.

Anyway, if you haven't seen the other videos, they're fairly decent. I'm sure they're on this blog somewhere! :) I'd love to hear your comments on these lyric videos in general, as I don't know if I'm the only one who's not completely endeared to them, or if you, like me, just want to see R.E.M. doing what they do best.

While you think about that, here's something I really enjoy:

Now that's how I like my music videos!

Yours truly,

UPDATE: Okay, from now on I promise not to find information just after I finish posting. I've got an interesting new piece of information, straight from

Firstly, it appears that there will be a music video for Mine Smell Like Honey! Michael has posted onto his Tumblr site three images of the not-yet-released video. There's been no word of an air date, but according to Ethan, Murmurs' administrator, it's "BANANAS". Sounds promising - at least they're not wandering aimlessly round a farm, like they did in Left of Reckoning!

Oh yes, and while you're on Stipe's Tumblr site, be sure to check out his award for the best ever tap. Truth be told, I kinda agree with him.

And that smiley-faced necklace thing he posted today is cool, too. :)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

"Mine Smell Like Honey" Release (+ Apologies)

Hi all, I'd like to start by offering an apology. It's prelim time in my school at the moment - for those of you who don't have the same education system as the UK, it's basically a mock exam. While it may not seem that important, should I miss the final exam (due to ill health etc.), the prelim marks are counted instead. So it's quite vital I do well in them.

Therefore, I'm afraid I won't be posting as often as I'd like to. I'll update fairly regularly - say, once every few days - but it won't be one post a day, as I've been accustomed to doing recently. The prelims are at the beginning of February, but there's still lots of revision to be done on my part! :)

Don't worry though - my dedication to this blog hasn't waned in the slightest, and during prelim time I'll be posting bootlegs, seeing as I can upload them whilst I revise. Mine Smell Like Honey has been released as of yesterday, and the reception amongst fans has generally been okay. Can't say all of us hardcore fans are in favour of it though, as one can see in the comments on Ivana's blog.

Despite the single's release, however, the song is still not available to buy on the iTunes store, and It Happened Today is so far the only song that can actually be bought on its own. I find it rather odd. Being a single, shouldn't it be possible to buy the song, you know... singly? Furthermore, there has been not mention of any B-sides, which implies that there are none.

I guess you can tell I'm researching this as I write! I've found myself on the American iTunes store, where Mine Smell Like Honey can be bought for $1.29. My advice - hang on to your money, and wait for the album. It may be a decent song, but Mine Smell Like Honey is not worth $1.29 in my opinion.

Later on this week (possibly the weekend) I'll be doing a feature, the topic of which will remain a mystery until then, just because I enjoy the ambiguity. :)  Also, as I promised Kirsten, I'll be uploading the Cologne 2001 show R.E.M. played, filled to the brim with great tracks such as At My Most Beautiful, Cuyahoga, The Great Beyond, and of course all the staple songs and hits. Heidigretel's Youtube page has a great recording of Mike Mills playing Superman during the soundcheck, the audio of which will be in the bootleg as a bonus track. Until then, here's her video:

Here's something fun to try - wait till the video has loaded, and then press '4' continually on your keyboard. That'll keep you busy until my next post, I hope!

Yours truly,

Sunday, 16 January 2011

So Much Younger Then: Tyrone's 1981

Here it is, as promised! Megaupload started behaving again, and so I was able to upload So Much Younger Then, a very early R.E.M. bootleg. This show was recorded on April 10th 1981 at Tyrone's in Athens, Georgia, and although this is only part of the set the quality is superb. You'll hear songs you've never heard before - tracks such as Action, Narrator and Mystery to Me were never released (however they were recorded at the Wuxtry sessions in Atlanta, which I'll get round to posting) but are still awesome.

Bootleg Details:
01 - Body Count
02 - A Different Girl
03 - Narrator
05 - She's Such a Pretty Girl
06 - Baby I
07 - Permanent Vacation (released on Perfect Square DVD in 2003)
08 - Wait (also with Michael's sisters Lynda and Cindy Stipe)
09 - Scheherezade
10 - Liza Sez
11 - Mystery to Me
12 - I Don't Want You Any More (released on Dead Letter Office and also in 2001, as All the Right Friends)
13 - Little Girl
14 - Dangerous Times

Quality: A+
Rating: ◊◊◊◊◊ - A recording that captures R.E.M. at its finest pre-Chronic Town. A must-have for those who want to hear early recordings of the band.


The full tape for this soundboard can be found here, but it's of poor quality and is a whopping 70 minutes long. Next time, I'll be uploading Cologne 2001, another A+ quality show. I also have some good news - MTV Unplugged 1991 is staying up! So you can all download it to your hearts' content until the link expires (should that happen, please leave a comment). Have a great time, everyone!

Yours truly,

EDIT 22/01/11: The link has been updated to a non-password archive. If you were having trouble before, that should be fixed now. Thanks to Carlos for informing me on this problem.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

I was wrong, I have been laughable wrong...

It seems I was a little hasty to totally condemn Mine Smell Like Honey. After a few more listens on my iPod, I now feel that the pop-punk verses work, and the rest of the song isn't bad, either. While I still loathe the "Mine smell like honey... uh" part, nothing else is as bad as I originally perceived it to be. My initial dislike was partly due to the fact that I was ready for an amazing single, which Mine Smell Like Honey isn't.

So, for that reason, I'd like to re-rate this piece:

Mine Smell Like Honey: ◊◊◊ - It's better than I thought. Not great, but it's a jolly little song and the chorus is still awesome!

Upon reflection, that's the rating it deserves. But in the coming months leading up to Collapse Into Now, I believe I'll be listening to this track a lot less than some of the others.

In other news, I've been having a lot of trouble putting So Much Younger Then, the booteg I promised, onto Megaupload. Due to high traffic at peak times, Megaupload gives me an error message every time I get past 1% - things seem to be doing well right now (I'm uploading as I write this), but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Another bootleg I'll be uploading in the near future is Live at Cologne, Roncalliplatz, 2001, as I know that Kirsten has been looking for it for a while. As for MTV Unplugged 1991... that post has been my highest source of traffic due to the bootleg's popularity, so I'm kinda inclined to leave it up there. I'm still undecided on that, however.

Yours truly,

Friday, 14 January 2011

"Mine Smell Like Honey" streamed!

So much for waiting! Ivana over on Mike Mills Tribute has provided me with the excellent news that Warner Bros. have made the new R.E.M. single Mine Smell Like Honey available for streaming, something which would have had the hardcore fans foaming at the mouth. However, I do say would - apparently the video was taken down shortly after it was released. Thankfully, a user ripped the audio from the video and has re-posted it online. So, without further ado, here it is:

My impression of the song? Unremarkable. The past three songs that have been released - Discoverer, It Happened Today and Oh My Heart - have been of a high standard, and I was really looking forward to this single. But, sadly, this is just another album-filler that competes with even the most bland of R.E.M. songs.

Michael's vocals sound a lot like they did on Reveal, with a possible slight compression/chorus effect that can be heard on such songs as Imitation of Life and All the Way to Reno. The only difference between its use on Reveal and this single is that, on the former, it works. The chorus that we heard on the trailer is perhaps the best part of the song, as everything before and after it just doesn't compete. The beginning of the track sounds something like a pop-punk record, before cutting to the pre-chorus:

Mine smell like honey, uh,
Mine smell like honey.

Wait a second... his what smell like honey? The addition of "uh" on the first line is a very Accelerate thing to do, and although it was beneficial (even a little 'cool'!) on that album it just doesn't work on a song like this. In fact, it has the opposite effect - the sound is nauseating and has some pretty sexually explicit implications. I'm sure I could explain further, but I think you get the gist.

Having said all that, the lyrics are fairly decent, and the chorus is still a redeeming quality. But like I said on Ivana's site, why on earth didn't they choose It Happened Today instead? That song is catchy as hell and miles better than the trite of Mine Smell Like Honey. I don't mean to be over-critical, but I was expecting bigger things from this track, which really just sounds like a bunch of loose ideas bundled into one song. And so, my rating:

Mine Smell Like Honey - ◊◊ - I might have put it on a par with Oh My Heart, if it weren't for the fact that my hopes for a great single have been crushed. A poor effort.

However, like I also said in my post on Mike Mills Tribute, we still have the rest of the album to go. I hope there'll be some gems hidden in amongst that tracklist... in fact, I'm sure of it. Bring it on!

Yours truly,

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Collapse Into Now UK pre-order

Well thank goodness! I was getting worried there.
It's finally here! After an infuriating wait, and roughly two weeks since the US pre-order went on sale, iTunes UK is now offering its users the chance to make an advance purchase of Collapse Into Now. While it's not exactly a groundbreaking story, I'm sure it will come as a relief for all the British R.E.M. fans who are eagerly awaiting the new album. Along with the advertised tracklist, there are also a number of bonus tracks that you can buy - live in studio versions of Discoverer, Oh My Heart and the as-of-yet unheard Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter. There's a short clip of AAAA on the Collapse trailer, but so far the chorus and bridge (if there is one) remain a mystery. It Happened Today is the only song you can make a standalone purchase of as of yet, and if you haven't got it, I'd highly recommend it.

As I look at the iTunes page, another interesting fact arises - the expected release date on the store is March 7th 2011, as opposed to the previously stated 8th. Does this mean that those who pre-order will be getting the new album one whole day early? I hope so... that's why my finger is poised over the 'Post' button!

Mine Smell Like Honey is now only five days away, and it's easy to get excited. About a week ago, an odd article caught my attention, which stated that the B-sides to this single had been leaked, and were available to play on article's website. The songs, A Town Called Armadillo and Zullu were the alleged B-sides, with the latter track featuring Peter Buck on vocals. I speculated that these tracks were fake. If you would like to hear them, you can find them here. Some of the comments on the website REM Nation state that there is, apparently, a video of Peter recording Zullu. However, this appears to be site that has perpetrated the hoax in the first place! REMRing seems to have confirmed that the songs aren't real, and that the whole thing was just a prank by the website in question. Still, the tracks are amusing enough.

Now, I think I'll need to run. There's a digital copy of that album with my name on it!

Yours truly,

UPDATE 12 SECONDS AFTER ORIGINAL POST: Blame my bad eyesight. REM Nation state on their post concerning Oh My Heart that the B-sides were, in fact, a joke. Well, you know what they say: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... you won't get fooled again."

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

R.E.M. covers that should NOT have been released

Hello all. In the absence of any major news from R.E.M. HQ (aside from a heads-up on Michael's performance at the Tibet House Benefit in March with Patti Smith), I've decided to do a small feature on R.E.M. covers by bands and artists. God knows there's a lot of them, and some are... well, not great. Appalling, even. So let's get our list started with what is possibly the worst rendition of an R.E.M. classic ever to be created:

1. Courtney Love's (Don't Go Back to) Rockville:

I've never heard Courtney Love, nor have I heard her band Hole, but after listening to this meagre snippet I know I never will, either. This beautiful, melodic country classic from Reckoning transforms itself into a sleazy, atonal hybrid when Love 'sings' it. I use that term loosely - her voice is unemotional and bland, and her grasp of tuning slips slowly away as she eventually decides she doesn't care anymore. Meanwhile, her band have other ideas, noodling away in the background and subconsciously telling Courtney to shut up and get on with the next number. I'm not sure if I would even call this a cover, but as it's so bad I feel it deserves inclusion.

2. Furthermore's Fall On Me:

No video for this one. To hear it, click the play button just below the article. The song starts off promisingly, with a groovy woodblock rhythm and an a capella from the female lead singer. Cue some interesting chords in the background, and some spooky backing vocals. Unfortunately, that's all there is. An incessant drum loop, with no build up of volume or instrumentation. I expected at least a piano to come in, to give the track at least a little flavour... but alas, it seems Furthermore are unable to provide the energy needed to spruce up what is a lifeless cover. Where's Mike Mills when you need him?

During my research, I came across an article similar to the one I am writing now, by Darren Barefoot. You can find it here. I can't say I agree with all his opinions, but it's an interesting read.

3. The Walkmen's Driver 8:

To play, click the picture below the song title. This is one I'm still undecided on. In comparison to the others above on this page, this is great (although it's not exactly a photo finish), but I can't really make my mind up on this. The intro is awesome, with a fruity organ and rumbling drums that imitate the train that the song's lyrics allude to. My only qualms are the singer's nasal voice, the lack of vocal harmonies which I feel gave the original a new dimension, and the fact that it suffers from the same problem as Furthermore's cover - it just doesn't build up much. At the end of each verse, the band crescendos with drum rolls a-plenty, and then... it drops back down again. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'd like to have seen a little more. Still, the inclusion of a video is always fun.

Now that you've heard three not-so-good covers (with the possible exception of The Walkmen, depending on your tastes), I think it's time to move on from our bland main course to a much sweeter dessert. This is one  often performed on live tours:

4. The Editors' Orange Crush:

The beginning is odd. On my first listen, I just expected this to be the style of the whole track. A slow, suspended piano and a strange-sounding singer initially put me off, and I just gave up on it. Then I listened for a few more seconds, and then my ears were greeted with the punchy beats and frankly weird vocals of The Editors as they rocked out on Green's epic track. The tremoloed guitars are a nice touch, and the band don't stray too far from the original composition. I just wish somebody had the courage to go up to that high G sharp! Thankfully, the live version with We Are Scientists gives you that soaring vocal line. And now for one that I discovered all by myself:

5. Calexico and Darius Rucker's I Believe:

Out of all the ones on this page, this has to be my favourite, despite the video's average quality. Rucker's country voice is perfect for this track, giving it the 'down South' flair that Michael Stipe had on Life's Rich Pageant. What I think makes it so unique is Darius' bassy-sounding vocal, which in my opinion really brings to life the character portrayed on this song - that old, Southern country gentlemen, who believes "in coyotes, and time as an abstract". The harmonies are sweet, the music is faithful and Darius fits his part like a hand does a well-worn glove.

And there we have it, five R.E.M. covers that'll either melt your heart or melt your brain. I certainly hope it's the former, but you can never be sure, especially with Courtney Love's abysmal cover still festering in my head hours after I listened to her. Darren Barefoot, I think, is overly harsh in his analysis, as Great Big Sea's It's the End of the World cover is rather enjoyable, as is the 10,000 Maniacs version of Rockville. It really does seem to be a matter of opinion. I think I'll leave you with just one more:

Make of it what you may - that's the beauty of a cover.

Yours truly,

Monday, 10 January 2011


Hello all, small update this time. As of today, my blog has now reached over 100 (111 to be exact) views! I'd like to thank you all for visiting this site, and I hope you'll stop by again when the mood takes you.

If you're interested, here's the lowdown of visitors:

United Kingdom
United States
Costa Rica
While I'm happy that so many 'locals' have taken the time to visit, I'm particularly pleased with the numbers from Norway and Malaysia - thank you for your contribution! This table doesn't track unique visitors, just so you know.

By reviewing my stats panel on the blog, I can tell that 91% of you are Windows users, and 36% of you use Internet Explorer. Why Blogger thinks I need to know this is anybody's guess - but I still think it's pretty cool. :)

Later on in the week, I'll be posting another bootleg, this time from the pre-Murmur era. In fact, this show was performed even before R.E.M. released Radio Free Europe! Taken from a soundboard recording at Tyrone's, Athens in 1981, this show is widely found on many bootleg records, albeit in a mostly incomplete form. I do have the whole show, but for the sake of quality over quantity I shall be putting up So Much Younger Then, which features 14 tracks from the 70-minute show. The rest will be uploaded eventually, but So Much Younger Then is such a good boot that I can't hesitate to release it.

Yours truly,

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Live @ MTV Unplugged 1991

The cover I made, rather crappily, with Photoshop. Give me credit if you want to use it.
What with all my talk of bootlegs and all, it's about time I started uploading them! This is an old R.E.M. classic, and a real hard one to get hold of - the band's performance on MTV Unplugged, in 1991.

I guess I should tell you about bootleg policy. Back in the old days, had a torrent section, called "Give It Away", which allowed users to get a hold of their favourite live concerts for free. Sadly, GIA is no longer available, but it kickstarted a whole host of bootlegging sites. R.E.M. supposedly had a verbal agreement with Murmurs about allowing bootlegs to be traded, as long as they weren't sold for money. I can neither confirm nor deny this, but I read an interview with Peter and Mike once which seems to support this fact.

I admit, I'm a little uneasy about uploading this one. R.E.M. shows that are bootlegged belong to R.E.M., which means although they're not strictly legal, we users can trade freely without hassle. However, MTV shows, even if they feature R.E.M., belong to MTV. As a result, these unplugged shows are incredibly hard to find, as most links are now dead due to MTV taking them off. Now, as I don't want to get sued, this bootleg will only be up for one more week, then after that you will need to contact me if you want this.

The whole situation is rather unfair. This was recorded twenty years ago, and so it's fairly obvious that MTV have no plans to release this, ever. But anyway, enough introduction. Here's the link:

Even small files on this site take ages to download, so I suggest you visit during 'happy hour' (don't know what it is for U.S. folks, but in Britain it's 5 a.m. onwards!) to get the fastest speed.

Remember, one week is all you get. If you reach this page and find a dead link, e-mail me and I can send you the files directly. Enjoy this classic show!

Bootleg details:
1 - Half a World Away
2 - Disturbance at the Heron House
3 - Radio Song
4 - Low
5 - Perfect Circle
6 - Fall On Me
7 - Belong
8 - Love is All Around
9 - It's the End of the World as We Know It
10 - Losing My Religion
11 - Pop Song 89

Quality: A+
Rating: ◊◊◊◊◊ - One of the best bootlegs out there. If I was stranded on desert island and could only have one R.E.M. show, it'd be this one.

Yours truly,

Friday, 7 January 2011

"Oh My Heart", AKA "Houston, Part 2"

Most fans, I imagine, were expecting Mine Smell Like Honey to be the next track released by the band (I certainly was!), but instead R.E.M. chose to surprise us all by giving us a special New Year's treat in the form of Oh My Heart, the fourth track from the eagerly-anticipated Collapse Into Now. Those of you who read my last post will remember my frantic edits as I realised, to my horror, that I had been oblivious to its release during the entire writing of the day's blog post.

So what were my first impressions of the new track? Well, as I wrote yesterday (albeit in a rushed, unpolished form), Oh My Heart alludes in more ways than one to their previous album Accelerate, namely the song Houston. Not just in it's lyrics either* - Oh My Heart evokes the emotion as Houston does, with an acoustic, minor-key verse dominated by Peter Buck's guitar. However, where the new song differs lies in the instrumentation of the track. Heavily distorted drums and guitars that were present in 2008 have been replaced with a mandolin and a brass section, and the chorus focuses more on the backing vocal than it did in Houston.

Speaking of the backing vocals, I was surprised at the change of direction they took in this song. R.E.M.'s harmonies are usually very close and tightly-knit (for example the Mills/Berry vocal duo in Wolves, Lower), and so I suppose I could be excused for being rather taken aback at  how much has changed over 30 years. Scott McCaughey and Mike Mills deliver an emotional, reverb-filled sound, which they further emphasise by placing their voices an octave apart, giving a unison effect. Actually, it kinda reminds me of one of those churches in America, where people join in massive sing-a-longs and add their own little ornamentation as they go.

Drums this time round are increasingly quiet, and in all honesty I didn't even realise they were there until my second listen. The musette used, along with the mandolin, gives the song a feeling I haven't experienced since I listened to Green for the very first time.

Alas, the question still remains in my head - do I like the song? After a whole night of  deliberation and constantly putting my iPod onto 'repeat', my answer is something you'd probably expect from an adolescent:

"Uh... yeah. It's okay, I guess."

The truth is, I was never a big fan of the more downbeat elements of Accelerate, much as I praise the album, nor am I a huge fan of R.E.M.'s slow, sad songs in general. In fact, it was only yesterday that I actually listened to Houston all the way through. I feel nothing but shame. :(

So, in order to give this song the review it deserves, I have devised a simple 5-star rating system. Here's how it works.

◊ - 1 Star: Just don't listen to this. Please, for the love of God!
◊ - 2 Stars: A below-average track. Not really worth your bother.
◊◊ - 3 Stars: A good song. Not the greatest, but it's nice to listen to.
◊◊◊ - 4 Stars: Great. I highly recommend this song, and you'll want to hear it again and again.
◊◊◊◊ - 5 Stars: Excellent. R.E.M. at their very finest!

Keeping in mind I am an R.E.M. fan, some songs which I would rate '5' on an ordinary system would now probably be a '4' on this scale, as it is in relation to the rest of their back catalogue. I think you'll get what I mean. If you're pining for another example, I might give one fizzy drink a 10 out of 10 on an ordinary scale, but if I was rating it in comparison to other fizzy drinks of the same kind it may not be as highly rated (or, indeed, may be even more so!).

Now that that's out of the way, I'll rate the three songs I've reviewed on the blog thus far:

Discoverer - ◊◊◊◊ - A rocking tune that I'll put on my CDs for weeks to come.
It Happened Today - ◊◊◊◊◊ - This is possibly one of my favourites at the moment, of all time. I can't tell you how much I like it!
Oh My Heart - ◊◊◊ - A decent song, though not one I think will stand out on the new album.

And there you have it. If you're clamouring for Mine Smell Like Honey, you'll have to wait until January 18th, I'm afraid. Amazon have a 30-second preview of the track here, and you can hear a shorter snippet on the CIN trailer, but sadly that's all we have. My body can't take much more of the waiting - oh, my heart!

Yours truly,

P.S. Sorry for the lame pun in the last line. I couldn't resist. :P

*The lyrics I'm referring to are in the third verse: The storm didn't kill me/The government changed, which closely resembles the first two lines of Houston: If the storm doesn't kill me/The government will. That's why I think of this song as "Houston, Part 2".

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Michael Stipe's new website

Michael Stipe... but my guess is you already knew that.
No matter how busy the band are with writing songs, playing concerts or doing interviews, J. Michael Stipe always seems to find time to do other things, such as his collaborations with other artists (notably Kurt Cobain of Nirvana* and Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs), his political activism, and his extensive work in the world of film. So far he has run two companies, C-00 and Single Cell Pictures, and has even appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, one I have yet to watch.

So why am I bringing all this up now? Well, it would seem Michael has embarked on another project, this time on the microblogging website and in time for his birthday two days ago. On his new site, "Confessions of a Michael Stipe" (WARNING: Picture of a naked woman down the page!), Michael posts pictures of what he describes on as "work images and studies". I'm not really sure how taking a photo of a plastic chair incorporates into his work as a photographer/film-maker, but there you go.

However, as I click through the three pages of images, I notice some pretty interesting stuff. Quite a few of the pictures were taken during R.E.M.'s recording sessions during their time in Nashville and Berlin, two of the places the band visited to record Collapse Into Now. Sadly, the photos are not of landmarks or the studio (although the official YouTube page has a few clips of the recording sessions in Nashville taken by Stipe himself), but of some green liquid and a wall. Oh well.

In addition to this web page, Michael also runs (ANOTHER WARNING: Lots of flashy images, and more nudity, although it's gone so quickly you'd hardly notice it). When I visited the site today, I was and still am a little confused. Just what on earth is going on there? Take a look for yourself and see what you make of it.

This review may seem a little negative to some. Truth be told, I don't fully understand the film industry at large, and so perhaps a more knowledgeable person will see these websites and find them utterly fascinating. I'm not criticizing what Stipe does - he obviously has a lot of talent for the arts - but I think in the long run it'll be his work in music, and with R.E.M., that defines his legacy.

Yours truly,

*It should be noted that this collaboration never truly happened, as Michael was trying to use it as a diversion to stop Cobain from taking his own life. Sadly, Kurt committed suicide on April 5, 1994, whilst listening to R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People.

EDIT: Oh my giddy aunt! While I was writing this, I was totally oblivious to the fact the R.E.M. have just released a new song and lyric video! It's called "Oh My Heart", and you can find it here. Rest assured a review will be coming up very soon. First impression - sounds quite good, I like the lyrical tie-in with Houston from Accelerate in the third verse. And that's where the brass band comes in!

ANOTHER EDIT: Would also like to wish a belated happy birthday to Mr. Stipe, who is 51 as of two days ago but still looks as youthful as ever. :)

Monday, 3 January 2011

"Discoverer" and "It Happened Today" - Reviews of two great new songs

It was really just by chance that I 'discovered' Discoverer (apologies for the major pun). I came home from school, switched on the computer and checked out R.E.M. HQ on the off chance there might be some new info about the album. Little did I know at the time of the sonic powerhouse that awaited me...

Perhaps I'm laying on the praise a little too heavily here, but Discoverer is still a rocking tune, by any means. Buck's overdriven guitars, panned to the max, give the track an ambience that is complemented by Mike Mills' frankly eerie bass and Bill Rielfin's minimalist drums (at least, I assume it's Bill - if anyone can confirm this it would be much appreciated).

Then Michael Stipe comes in. At first listen I didn't like his vocal approach, and I admit that freely. The chorus sounded particularly dire - the sound coming from his throat was more like shouting than singing at times, and when it came to the last line "Noooooow!" was more like a wail than a note. But it would seem the vocals here were somewhat of an acquired taste, because with each listen I found myself enjoying the track more and more, and my opinion of Stipe's vocals turned from awful to awesome overnight.

On the whole, I was glad they hadn't taken too much of a leap from Accelerate, as that was the album that got me hooked on them in the first place. But they have added elements from their previous albums too. Whilst Accelerate was a short, fast, politically-charged attack, Discoverer lowers the tempo slightly, and every so often you notice things that eluded you on your previous listen, much like R.E.M.'s early albums.

I have only one complaint about this song, and that is the absence of Mills' excellent vocal harmonies. One of the reasons I didn't like Around the Sun was because his vocals were mixed so low that they may as well not be there at all. On Discoverer, he's louder, but he's just singing in unison with Michael. I guess it's better than nothing at all, but I would have liked him to be a bit more... there.

Thankfully, I can't say the same about It Happened Today, which I can essentially describe as a two-minute song with a two-minute vocal jam at the end. And that, my friends, is why I like it so much.

The chord progression used by Peter Buck in the song is a standard I-V-vi-IV, for those who play an instrument, but the melody is interesting enough and the lyrics are astute, for want of a better word. Considering the clever word choice here (who on earth would think of putting "allegory" in a song? I know I wouldn't), the chorus seems a little odd when taken out of the context of the music:

It happened today, hooray, hooray,
It happened, hip, hip hooray.

See what I mean? But when Stipe and Mills are singing as well as they are, it doesn't matter anyway. Speaking of singers, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Hidden Cameras' Joel Gibb make guest appearances on the track, adding extra counter melodies and turning this song into something special. I recall someone saying he was "Vedder-deaf" when listening to this, but he is definitely there - he's singing higher than Stipe and lower than Mills, and he applies his own unique style which can be heard throughout and quite audibly at the end. As for Joel Gibb, I had never heard him prior to this, so I'm not sure which voice is his - I'm guessing, but I think it may be the falsetto you can hear sometimes on the near right pan.

So, my overall impression? That this may just be the best R.E.M. album yet, if things continue the way they're going. Judging by these songs and the trailer, I can find no fault in the direction they have decided to move in. I've seen a lot of people criticise Michael Stipe's lyrics on the new album, calling them "uninspiring" and just plain "boring", but I don't mind, really. They may not be his best, but it's the music that matters most, and it's the music that we'll still be playing a whole year after the album comes out this March!

Yours truly,

Sunday, 2 January 2011

This time it's for myself, you call it what you may...

If you're reading this, it means you've stumbled into my little abode on the far reaches of the Internet (well, considering this website is owned by Google, it's not that far). So, I'd like to start off by saying hello. My name's Auctioneer - at least, that's my name on here - and this is my blog dedicated to R.E.M. You name it, I'm intending to cover it - reviews, bootlegs and rarities, and comment on all the latest news from Murmurs, R.E.M. HQ and the like.

So why did I suddenly decide to start this blog? Well, after seeing some of the sterling work done by my fellow bootleggers and R.E.M. fans (see their links on the sidebar, they're well worth a visit!) I thought I could take a crack at it too. And what better place to start than a simple blog?

I've been a big fan of the band for about half a year now, although I had always liked them ever since I was a little nipper, listening to Imitation of Life in the car with my mum, thinking that it was Billy Joel who was singing. My mother had always been a fan of R.E.M. too, and she owned cassette copies of classic albums such as Out of Time and Automatic for the People. It's thanks to her that I started listening to R.E.M. in the first place.

But enough introduction! I assume that if you're still reading you'll want to read some more posts. This blog will be updated at least once a week, maybe more, maybe less depending on school and other commitments. In any case, I hope you enjoy what you read. Stay tuned for next time when I review R.E.M.'s first two released songs from their upcoming album Collapse Into Now. See you then!

Yours truly,