Let Me In
March 26, 2007
This is for Chris, who turned 25 today. Like myself, Chris has a deep and totally unapologetic love for R.E.M.’s Monster, though our favorite songs on the album are a bit different. For me, “Let Me In” has always been the painful (emotionally, not aesthetically) dirge that I flick past in order to get from the creepy “I Took Your Name” to the creepier “Circus Envy,” but for him, it’s the high point of the entire record. As he puts it:
I tend to like songs with a big, romantic, epic longing to them, but who’s expressing that longing matters. It shouldn’t be showy; it needs to come from a voice or narrator who doesn’t always let these things out. Which is definitely Stipe. I just like that the song is so fuzzy and odd, in both sound and lyric, and then that one long keening note just slices through it, followed by that simple, powerful statement.
He’s not wrong. The guitar on the album version is almost too much for me to handle sometimes. The tone, attack, and mixing level is extremely atypical for R.E.M., and though it’s not the weirdest performance you’ll ever hear, it certainly feels like an enormous weight bearing down on the listener and the singer, alternately representing Stipe’s gnawing grief, and the vast chasm separating himself and the person being addressed in the lyrics. The dense, crashing chords are distracting and seem to interrupt or drown out his sincere, understated sentiment, but that’s exactly the point — he needs to sing around, or through, this wall of emotional noise.
“Let Me In” has barely been played live since the end of the Monster tour, though it was reprised with a radically different arrangement during the band’s performance at the Bridge School benefit in the fall of 2001. The new version replaces the heavy electric guitar and distant organ of the original with uneasy acoustic strumming and a subtle melodic counterpoint on a vibraphone, or something rather similar. The effect of the song is altered considerably, implying that time has distanced him from the intense emotions of the studio recording, but that he’s still recovering from the loss eight years later.