June 6, 2007
Pro: “Bad Day” is a catchy little rock and roll song that is basically a dry run for “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” one of the band’s most enduring and well-loved hits. If they had completed in 1986, it would have been a worthy addition to Lifes Rich Pageant, though certainly not one of the best tracks on that album.
Con: It was shelved for well over a decade and reworked as a single in support of In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. 1988-2003, a rather dreadful compilation that somehow drops the ball on the no-brainer task of putting together a hits record drawing on the band’s most commercially successful period. The inclusion of “Bad Day” (as well as the early ’80s rarity “All The Right Friends”) directly contradicts the title of the collection, and its presence on the record takes up space for songs that ought to be on an R.E.M. greatest hits record — “Pop Song 89,” “Drive,” “Bang and Blame,” and “Shiny Happy People,” which is one of the band’s most iconic and highest charting singles.
The problem of In Time is the problem of far too many “hits” records to come out in recent years — it allows the artist to omit songs that embarrass them, and it is designed to draw in hardcore fans with unreleased material rather than simply offer the most popular songs in one package for casual listeners. A good hits album should be a primer for new fans, a trophy cabinet showing off the artist’s deep catalog of quality singles, and something that works well in a jukebox at a bar. In Time is a miserable failure, but Eponymous and And I Feel Fine get it exactly right. (I mean, think about it — “All The Right Friends” and “Bad Day” aren’t good enough to fit in on either of those collections, so why the hell should they be anachronisms on the later compilation?)
Pro: The “broadcast me a joyful noise…” lead-up to the chorus is a thrill every time, and “the auctioneer is such a creep” line is a fun nod to longtime fans.
Con: There’s something kinda sad and depressing about the fact that the band chose to finish up this song out of everything lying around in their back catalog. It seems like they were totally desperate for a hit, and decided “hey, well, we have this song that’s kinda like “It’s The End Of The World…” and that’s about it. It’s one part cheap nostalgia, and two parts them working out a way to pander to old school fans while also saying “hey, this is an old song, we don’t write tunes like this anymore.” It’s too wishy washy.
Pro: Even if it’s technically an old song, it’s good to hear Mike Mills offering so much in terms of backing vocals. I can’t understand why he’s backed out of that role in recent years when vocal harmony is so central to the appeal of the band.
Con: Ugh, that harmonica solo is kinda gross.