Feeling Gravitys Pull
June 5, 2008
Whereas a huge number of songs in the R.E.M. discography in some way examine the relationship between dreams and waking life, “Feeling Gravitys Pull” is fully immersed in Michael Stipe’s dream world. The song works against all odds — dream logic is almost always extraordinarily difficult to describe in a way that does justice to the workings of your unconscious mind, and anyone who has ever humored a friend as they attempt to recount a particularly evocative dream knows that it’s often a very dull chore. Stipe’s lyrics work mainly because his imagery is vivid and interesting enough to be effective in any context, and he’s not writing about a dream so much as writing about the experience of dreaming in general. In the song, the dreamscape is both a thing of mysterious, somewhat terrifying beauty, and a domain where a person can overcome the rules of society and the laws of physics, and achieve a sort of power and freedom they could never know when awake and in the real world. The song is defiant; the sound of someone finding power in a life in which they have no choice but to be passive to the humbling forces of nature.
“Feeling Gravitys Pull” is among the band’s finest compositions. It’s a very tense and moody piece of music, and much of its power comes from the way the group are capable of subtly shifting between dense, claustrophobic passages and sequences that are both grandiose and ethereal. In particular, Peter Buck shines with one of the most distinct guitar parts in his repertoire — a sinister lead line that alternates with a clanging, metallic rhythm that chugs along with Mike Mills’ thick, menacing bass part and Bill Berry’s subtly vertiginous percussion on the verses.