Burning Down / Ages Of You

July 21, 2007

“Ages Of You” is a rewritten version of “Burning Down,” one of R.E.M.’s earliest compositions dating back to 1980. Obviously, the group were never very pleased with either incarnation, and both appear on the odd-and-sods collection Dead Letter Office. Both songs have a pleasant chord progression that in retrospect seems almost like a generic version of Buck’s own style from the period, but despite some intriguing lyrics that nod in the general direction of the topic of the south’s history with slavery, “Burning Down” is clearly the lesser of the two. There’s something missing, but it’s not obvious — its elements are appealing, but nothing gels. “Ages Of You” is much more complete, and progresses through several strong hooks and a cascading guitar part that seems to anticipate the generally superior “Pretty Persuasion.” Weirdly, “Ages Of You” would probably be a lot more enjoyable if it were written and performed by a band who were actively attempting to ape R.E.M., but as an actual entry in the real deal’s discography, it just invites a smile and a shrug: “Yeah, okay. That’s a nice song. Whatever.”

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21 Responses to “Burning Down / Ages Of You”

  1. Elliot H. Says:

    That’s basically how I responded to Dead Letter Office in general. (I’m not considering Chronic Town when I say this, mind you. I loved it).

    “It’s nice, ok. Whatever.”

  2. transformerdog Says:

    was surfing the net , was over there to the right, checking out lyrics annotations ..Clicked back here and saw the tail end of this new entry dangling there on my screen..”hmmn” , I thought , read what I could see without checking out the title, …..bass ackwards -a simple, small thrill to start my day….It was fun while it lasted. Oh yeah, about the song(s)..Need to refresh my nodes of Ranvier. Need to access infinity contained inside a glob of jelly. Where does a memory return from when it hasn’t been in consciousness for ages (with or without you)?

  3. ozon Says:

    I actually prefer Burning Down.

  4. Theresa Says:

    I really like both of these songs. They’re easy to like, and the first time I heard ‘Burning Down’ I loved it. I can see why they were left off of the record, though. They aren’t at the same level as most R.E.M. songs. But I’m glad that they were on ‘Dead Letter Office’, just so we could hear them.

  5. Justin Says:

    I like that the chord progression was called “The Fruity Song” before it had a title proper.

    There’s a really sweet live version of “Ages of You” on the bonus disc of …And I Feel Fine. It’s much better in a live setting. More low end, thicker sounding, etc.

  6. transformerdog Says:

    in Atlanta in ’03 the Slinkmeister introduced Gardening At Night as “the first song we ever wrote”–earlier than than this I wonder?–which isn’t saying much considering Michael’s penchant for blurting out things on stage ,true or not…I mean what song REALLY is your favorite song, Stipeman? And BTW, that better not be styrofoam , Pal !!.shit , still ain’t listened to these songs yet for purpose of commenting relevantly…. I galivant on now…

  7. MM Says:

    The Fruity Song turned out to be “Bandwagon”…as heard on Dead Letter Office…”Come on aboard I promise you we wont hurt the horse…we treat him well and feed him well…”

  8. the ghost Says:

    I actually talked about the live version of Ages of You on a friend’s message board under the topic of songs that kicked my ass on a particular day. And maybe the simplicity of the song is what kicks my ass. R.E.M. has (some may argue had) the ability to just reel off these unimportant but catchy-as-hell songs, and I think that’s part of charm of songs like “Ages of You,” “Just a Touch” and maybe, to an extent, “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite.” It’s as if the meaningful songs are more powerful when the band chooses not to say anything at all in other songs. Maybe?

  9. transformerdog Says:

    OH, I get it !! Ages Of You has an ottoman reference–he really sings “ottoman” !!!(and it is the furniture, not the empire), and also a train reference, so this post is directly tied to your previous two….hmnn….so if I was a mathemitician or a code decipherer or Jimmy The Greek I might be able to recognize a trend based on a logical system and predict your next song subject :)

    The beginning of Ages reminds me of Ozzy, can you believe it? I think I’m thinking of the beginning of Flying High Again, that stutter step drum -except it’s sustained longer in the REM — before the guitar comes in, might be another Ozzy song , Crazy Train? That would be too appropriate (!), think it’s FHA.

  10. transformerdog Says:

    “sofa seated” sounds more like superceded,—-Man , I’m having a ball with the lyric reference to the right; Ages a lot like Sitting Still , Stipend Not Measley sings a line and PB mirrors it with a corresponding jangle,very typical REM song structure .Burning Down seems like a rather morose subject lyrically for such an upbeat jaunty tune musically, like they’re drowning but having a blast in the process, dancing on the road to nowhere)….And the very beginning, the first second or so sounds EXACTLY like another early REM #, don’t wanna think too hard about it though , it’ll come to me in the morning

  11. transformerdog Says:

    Burning Down , the very beginning, YUP, it’s Sitting Still, exactly, a song I heard Stipend once introduce as being “for his sister”

  12. transformerdog Says:

    Ozzy-‘Over The Mountain’ is the song

  13. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    It’s funny, but I have always far preferred “Burning Down” to “Ages of You” and thought that “Burning Down” would have fit in great on Reckoning or maybe even later on Life’s Rich Pagaent. For me “Ages of You” took something simple (maybe too simple in the bands opinion) and tried too hard to make it weightier, more complex, and the song feels like that. Both are stand-outs on Dead Letter Office though.

  14. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    It’s funny, but I have always far preferred “Burning Down” to “Ages of You” and thought that “Burning Down” would have fit in great on Reckoning or maybe even later on Life’s Rich Pagaent. For me “Ages of You” took something simple (maybe too simple in the bands opinion) and tried too hard to make it weightier, more complex, and the song feels like that. Both are stand-outs on Dead Letter Office though. Goodnight.

  15. Paul Alferink Says:

    I vote for Burning down, also. But Ages was clearly the band favorite. It pops up at old live shows here and there, where I don’t see Burning Down performed much.

  16. Justin Says:

    I totally confused “Bandwagon” and “Burning Down”.

  17. protimoi86 Says:

    aside from the light, jangly sound apparent in many of R.E.M.’s early songs, i never heard the similarities between the two songs. Had Peter Buck not clued us in that Ages of You was a re-tooled Burning Down, i wouldn’t have guessed.

  18. Ignis Sol Says:

    I like “Burning Down” because of the lines “burning down, my hands are tied, my feet are bound.” The catchy urgency of the music makes it instantly likeable to even a casual listener. I, too, see the connection with what became Fables of the Reconstruction.

    I like “Ages of You” because of its artistic (artsy) aspirations from its somewhat pretentious title to the Buck jangle, jangle between Stipe’s beautifully mumbled and repeated lyrics (about ottomans, conductors and horses?). This tune is instantly recognizable as a great R.E.M.-styled composition. I feel so cool when I sing “ages of you, ages of you…” Like I am in on this song’s secret meaning when I absolutely not.

  19. Kirsten Says:

    I always though that ottoman line was “It matters not, it matters such” and to be honest, I like that better.

    Burning Down is definately my favourite of the two for the exact same line as Ignis stated.

    I’m also in agreement with most of you that these are both just great little tunes, nothing to involved or exciting, but nice to listen too. Never skip either of them.

  20. dan Says:

    i love the dead letter office originals. r.e.m. practically stopped having non-album original material early into the warner bros era, so the novelty of these songs remains high.

    it’s just nice to have a handful of songs to fall back on when i’m burnt out on the other IRS years stuff. i think “ages of you” is my favorite of these two…

  21. Alex Says:

    Wow, I’m late to the game on this one. To echo a few others, I prefer Burning Down as well. The chorus is so fun and engaging that it completely makes up for a slightly uninteresting verse, and leaves me feeling happy every time I hear it.


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