I Took Your Name
May 27, 2008
Monster is essentially an album about identity — or more specifically, the fluidity of identity. “I Took Your Name” takes that core concept and pushes it to the most evil extreme: Malicious identity theft and deliberate, sadistic defamation of character. There are a handful of R.E.M. songs sung from the perspective of creepy individuals, but the character in “I Took Your Name” is the only one that is played as a straight-up super villain, right on down to the fact that he’s fairly obsessed with making sure that his nemesis is aware that HE is the one responsible for their downfall, like a bad guy in a James Bond movie. That’s pretty crucial, actually. Our antagonist here is defined by his vanity, and he’s overly concerned with style and affectation. Much of the song is about co-opting and corrupting the image of his rival, who I suppose we can glean to be some sort of rock star, given the references to Iggy Pop and master tapes. It’s a pretty funny song, actually — all of the character’s claims, however menacing, are a just bit skewed and over-the-top.
The arrangement echoes Michael Stipe’s delicate balance of the silly and the sinister, mainly by reprising the thick, heavy-handed tremolo effect of “Crush With Eyeliner,” but applying it to a much darker groove. Basically, if Peter Buck’s guitar effect on “Crush With Eyeliner” is a bit like the image of heat waves rising off of hot concrete, “I Took Your Name” is like the disorienting aftermath of getting hit in the head with a frying pan.