July 4, 2007
“ I know that this is vitriol. No solution, spleen-venting, but I feel better having screamed. Don’t you?”
Michael Stipe provides the most basic summary of “Ignoreland” right there in its third verse. I remember this song seeming a bit obscure when I was a young teenager, but now that I’m a bit older and have a better frame of reference, Michael’s lyrics about the media and American politics circa 1992 are extremely bold, straight-forward in their rhetoric, and heartbreakingly prescient. There’s really nothing to be confused about, though he does run through a lot of the lyrics very quickly in the speedy build-up to the chorus.
“Ignoreland” is a bitter protest song that has been blown up into a massive multi-tracked juggernaut, but the irony is that despite being the song on Automatic For The People most obviously suited to the needs of a large scale concert, it has never been performed live. There’s two likely reasons for this. First, the album arrangement is a thick soup of overdubs, and though a streamlined version may have its charm, it would most likely sacrifice its illusion of density. Secondly, I suppose there may be some concern that the lyrics are a bit dated, but um, that argument doesn’t actually make good sense to me since its words only seem more relevant in the era of Fox News. It seems like a waste for them to not give this song a shot in concert — I can imagine a fairly straight adaptation of the album arrangement working out very well as one of the first three songs in a set, or a folky version sitting comfortably in the middle third of a show.