April 10, 2007

Even though “Revolution” was played every night on the Monster tour, it’s easy to understand why it didn’t make it to New Adventures In Hi-Fi. It’s a fine song, but its topical lyrics strayed from the general themes of the album and were already a bit dated halfway through the tour. Also, “Revolution” would seem a bit redundant alongside “Departure,” which sounds somewhat similar, but is superior in most respects.

The hard thing to understand is why the band opted to record a sloppy, half-assed version of the song and banish it to the Batman & Robin soundtrack. Okay, fine, surely they were given a good chunk of money for that, and it probably made some people at their record label very happy. Whatever. The weird thing is that four cd EPs were released for the singles from Hi-Fi, and though the band definitely had several live recordings of the song in the can, not one of those EPs included a version of “Revolution.” The only alternative recording that has been officially released is on the (rather fantastic) concert film Road Movie, begging the question: Are R.E.M. embarrassed by this song? I don’t disagree that its best possible home was the Monster tour in specific and 1995 in general, but surely it deserved a slightly better fate.


16 Responses to “Revolution”

  1. dan Says:

    this song was pretty integral in cementing my r.e.m. obsession in my teenage years. i bought the batman soundtrack for it, and the song’s quality made me go and seek out every other soundtrack that r.e.m. had a song on (unfortunately, that included the x-files soundtrack).

    i think of it as a throwback to their early style — it’s not a stretch to imagine the main riff played all clean and jangly ala “harbourcoat.” also, was this the last time mike mills really got to sing anything substantial on an r.e.m. original?

  2. See, I probably should’ve gotten into this in the actual entry, but there’s something slightly appalling about the guitar tone on the studio recording — it’s got this really tacky mid-90s sound, and it seems like Peter Buck was replaced at the last moment in the studio by a guitar tech for Garbage or something.

  3. MoL Says:

    To follow-up Dan’s comment, I’ve always wondered how the Monster-NAIHF era “hard” (for R.E.M. that is) songs would translate in an unplugged-like setting.

    I would put this song with Ignoreland as the lyrics are reflective of when they were written. You could argue the significance of the song has lost (gained?) meaning since it was written.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. dan Says:


    yeah, i was going to mention something along those lines too.

    you’re right that it’s a half-assed recording, although i’ve never heard a live version to compare.

  5. dan Says:

    this comment is just to clarify that my above comment was a reply to mr. perpetua’s, not MoL’s (which didn’t exist at the time).

  6. Dfactor Says:

    Hey MP, Great stuff – Might you be covering the pre-Murmur, early Tyrone’s songs at some point? Tunes like Body Count, Mystery to Me and Permanent Vacation?

  7. To be honest, I’m kinda looking for reasons NOT to write up a lot of non-album songs! I’ll probably do “Permanent Vacation” because it was a staple on the last two tours, but the rest of the flat-out unreleased stuff is unlikely to be covered here unless I get really bored way down the line. I mean, I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to do all of the songs on Dead Letter Office. I’d be more interested in writing about a lot of the commonly played covers from the IRS era — “After Hours,” “Ghost Rider,” “Fun Time,” “Academy Fight Song,” “See No Evil.”

  8. James Says:

    You should write about “All The Right Friends,” at least. Not only is it a rare song R.E.M. recorded in the studio twice, but its a rare (non-bootleg) example of the straightforward, “new wave” band R.E.M. could have been if they didn’t decide to take their time recording in the early days. Instead, Stipe restarted his lyrical style from the ground up and the band threw away most of their older songs by the time they started recording Chronic Town.

  9. Yeah, I’ll do that one since it’s on In Time.

  10. ozon Says:

    I really enjoy the studio version of Revolution. Lyrics may be dated but I still like them since I enjoy Stipe getting vicious.

  11. EK Alex Says:

    Not one of my favourites from the back catalogue, I find that its straightforward glam-rock melody just leaves me cold. This, and Departure are my least favourites from this period of the band.

  12. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    The throwaway feel of the studio version (released on the “Batman & Robin” soundtrack) always connected in my mind for some reason with the drunken stupor version of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” on Dead Letter Office. Just kind of a feeling of we don’t give a crap about this song, the recording equipment just happens to be on. But, whereas “King of the Road” was funny, this is just sort of Moster-by-numbers and the band seems to know it – hence, the throwaway recording quality and the fact they gave it to the “Batman & Robin” soundtrack. I do agree that the one positive of the song are the Mike Mills vocals. The band themselves have said the best thing about this song is that it was their small part in killing off the Batman movie franchise, which had become incredibly bad by the 4th installment with George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the be-nippled bat suit. Of course, after a decade hiatus, Batman movies have returned!

  13. protimoi86 Says:

    Now if only a certain drummer would return after HIS decade-long hiatus!

    But on the subject of Revolution, I’ve always liked that song, and I don’t know why. The way it’s produced, I can’t see it fitting on any album – maybe the follow-up to Hi-Fi if Bill had stayed in the band and they continued their Monster/NAIHF style with more studio sheen. It was the first R.E.M. song I owned, when I got the Batman and Robin soundtrack as a birthday present when i was a kid, so there’s that special memory too.

  14. Scott Malobisky Says:

    parallels to The Pretenders here?
    Private Life: “you can be gone with your theatrics your acting’s a drag”……..And this , “I’m getting tired of your theatrics everybody knows you’re a bad acteress.”……..Kick it out . Right on. So, who is she?

  15. Scott Malobisky Says:

    NO WAY ! Pretenders is “J’ai les glands with your theatrics..”, huh? 4 years of French in high school and what does it get me …Got the REM lyric wrong , we got no power…

  16. rodhutch Says:

    I’ve always thought that the last verse is about Courtney Love. “You’re trying to look like a punk rock girl . . . I don’t really care for your theatrics/Everybody knows that you’re a bad actress.”
    Does that not sound like Courtney Love to anyone else?

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