Second Guessing

August 14, 2007

The difference between Murmur and Reckoning is like night and day — literally. Whereas Murmur‘s stark contrasts, snappy beats, and murky textures evoke the romance of twilight, it’s almost impossible to hear the songs on Reckoning without imaging blue skies and broad daylight. In the least self-conscious way possible, Reckoning is a summer album, a piece of music ideally suited to being heard on a car stereo on the way to something fun. The album gets a bit heavy in places, but a great deal of its appeal comes from the sense that the band is more focused on evoking a pleasurable sensation than belaboring a point. When it comes down to it, “Second Guessing” is mostly just harmony and velocity, with a lyric that isn’t concerned with much more than social status in a local scene. It’s about as thematically lightweight as it gets for R.E.M., but that lightness allows it to whoosh on by in a carefree rush on to the next exciting whatever.

37 Responses to “Second Guessing”

  1. Kenna Says:

    One of their perfect songs. Reminds me of my very early 20’s. (sigh)

  2. Figgy Says:

    I love this song. Has everything I love about REM: the guitar sound, the rhythm, the harmonies… just great.

    Is it true that this was a set opener in the early days because the “Here we are” line fits so well? (I suppose I should really check that remtimeline site)

    And during live shows did Stipe ever sing the last line as “Peter, Mike, Bill are your book this season”?

  3. Paul Alferink Says:

    Kind of the REM version of “Hey Hey, we’re the Monkey’s.” And a statement that they won’t be swayed by public opinion and trends. Trends come and go, butm, “Here We Are”

    Best line:
    What will be your look this season?
    Who will be your book this season?

  4. Theresa Says:

    This used to be my favorite R.E.M. song. It was my favorite for a while when I first started listening to them, and before I realized that it was impossible to pick just one favorite song. I still really like it.

  5. Figgy Says:

    I look at this song (and indeed the rest of Reckoning) as an example of how four enthusiastic people – who are not all necessarily good musicians – can get together and produce great, fresh-sounding music. I just love that spirit, that teamwork. I still dream of playing in a band with the spirit of Reckoning-era REM.

    This song also exudes the excitement of being young, being part of a scene and being in a band playing little gigs everywhere and anywhere. Fun, carefree years. The grown-up world can wait a while.

  6. Ignis Sol Says:

    I was once weary of Reckoning because of its breeziness and slightly dated sounds. Now I have come to love it (Time after Time” is my most favorite song. Time after Time” is my most favorite song). And geez there is that Pavement song about it. I agree with Figgy about the fresh sound and fun of this album.

    “Second Guessing” is one of those cool R.E.M songs that is so fun to sing along with because it has style mixed with artistry and craft (like “Sitting Still” and “Shaking Through” from Murmur). Paul A – those ARE great lines “here we are, here we are.” Cool lyrics, fun music!

  7. maclure Says:

    Spot on from Matthew, say no more…

  8. Kirsten Says:

    My favourite part is the oh-oh-oh leading into the “here we are” part. Another great REM song. Agree with Ignis on the ‘dated’ sound of Reckoning. I don’t listen to it as often as I should cause I always think of it as too clean or crisp and tend to opt for the murkier sound of Murmur. Having said that, when I do give Reckoning a chance, Wow, what an amazing album it is. Not even a mediocre song amongst them.

  9. Tim Says:

    This was a fun one to hear again at the Dublin shows.

  10. Mr Cup Says:

    In contrast to Matthew, this album for me is always a night time record. Partly the cover art (God bless the reverend) and largely because the first half dozen times I heard it was in a car at night.

    There is that beautiful energy here of ‘we can do whatever the f@*k we want’. What it would have been to catch this song in a little pub somewhere with 40 other people jumping around.

  11. Kirsten Says:

    Speaking of jumping around, what a great song to sing at the top of your voice whilst jumping around the living room! Or is that just me….

  12. Mr Cup Says:

    lets just say I’m sure you’re not alone

  13. Carolann Monroe Says:

    Michael talked about this song before they performed it in Dublin and he described it as the first song he wrote about the band. Then he pointed out he’d forgotten to put his own name in it somewhere or other.

    They seemed to enjoy playing this one, really tore into it.

  14. dumbek Says:

    Apparently this song enokes a lot of jumping around, as I was about to say the same thing.

  15. dumbek Says:

    ummm – make that “evokes” 🙂

  16. Mr Cup Says:

    REM will make ya… jump – jump…
    This song will make ya… jump – jump

  17. Kirsten Says:

    Ohh, Mr Cup. Imagine admitting to remembering that song….

  18. Mr Cup Says:

    Some things you just don’t forget.
    Quick someone say something before-oh it’s too late…Van …Halen..


  19. jim jos Says:

    I love this board!

    I have always thought that Reckoning sounded so much like a band that was comfortable of being in a band and I love that feeling. Usually, when the second album comes out, its time to be all “hey, were not buying into this whole rock star thing” or it tends to bitch about how stardom wasn’t what it was cracked up to be and life was better two years ago when we were all so innocent.
    Reckoning is the opposite of that and I love R.E.M. for it. It has an openness and energy to it, that the band never approached again. Which is not to say its frivolous at all.

    Maybe it is dreaming of a past that I never had. I grew up in 90’s and you either stood and stared at the band or you went to the mosh pit.

    When I read about early R.E.M. crowds or B52 crowds and people were actually dancing and having fun at a rock concert. Novel concept huh, dancing to music?

    I look at videos of One I Love and I see the crowd dancing around the band, the girls with big frizzy hair and everybody is just having a good time, not pretending to be jaded or whatever. Those images are like ghosts to me. I mean, Second Guessing would be a great song to experience that with. What a vibe!

    Damn it, I would love to be in Athens in 1984 and go nuts to this song, live in front of the band. That frizzy haired chick would be three years younger and mine dude.

  20. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Van Halen is going on tour with Wolfgang ,Eddie’s son, on bass. Read awhile back that David Lee Roth is a paramedic in NYC and “not one patient so far has recognized me”.. I work with a girl who grew up with Michael Anthony –tight, childhood friends from the same street–and she has told me some GREAT stories (has a lot of backstage photos that I haven’t seen yet). She was saying that she recalls when they first got signed and MA was still in the hood and he bought a new Porsche, how everytime he would pull out of his driveway some little 7 year old kid across the street would come running out of the house, flip him the bird while yelling, “F&*()%$# You, Michael, F#@$*& You !!” She never figured that one out. I asked her the other day what was the single craziest, wildest thing she ever witnessed backstage-“be specific”–and she told me that she couldn’t answer because there are kids present..But I’ll ask her again………

  21. Mr Cup Says:

    Hang on. David Lee Roth a paramedic?

  22. ScottMalobisky Says:

    yeah when I think about what I was doing in ’84 (or ’83 for that matter , ’85’,’6,’7)……Totally oblivious to this Mighty Enigma crawling from the south , A TOTAL ROCK AND ROLL FOOL but completely unaware of REM , how fun it would have been to follow their career as it unfolded…Same thing happened with the Beatles to in a way (although I was too young then) , so into classic rock but really not that into the Beatles until about 7 years ago (and Dylan too, more recently). I remember California, oh excuse me , I mean , I remember laying on my apartment couch stoned watching Monday Night Football and listening to Howard Cosell announcing the murder of John Lennon and not really having it hit me that hard, I mean it sucked but not that bad , you know?, but if that happened today I would probably be reduced to tears because now I love and appreciate The Beatles.

  23. ScottMalobisky Says:

    yes sir , that’s correct Mr.Cup, a couple of years ago he was –in NYC (short hair)–don’t know if he’s still doing it

  24. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Reckoning is a strange album for me , the last “back album” that I finally heard in it’s entirety , bought it Feb. 10, 2003…I remember that so clearly because exactly one week later I got in a DUI car accident (I was the DUI) so I always sorta associate it with that ; the CD in at the point of impact? New Adventures In Hi-Fi. The song playing? E-Bow The Letter.

  25. Mr Cup Says:

    Reminds me of a acr accident I had whilst listening to Crowded House. When I look back, it would have been simpler to just eject the tape.

    Sure he’s not a paramedic in a TV show?

  26. ScottMalobisky Says:

    huh? Mr. Cup, so you are saying that I am talking about a TV show…..well, I suppose it’s possible (more plausible than him being a real genuine paramedic, huh? :))Really , I thought that he was a real paramedic…but I guess that would require certain schooling and such and patience and certain non-flamboyant people skills ,the more I think about this it seems ridiculous , though I truly believed it !! Looking it up now….

  27. Mr Cup Says:

    That’s ‘car’ accident

  28. Mr Cup Says:

    I’m not questioning your integrity Scott, just the absurdity of Diamond David serenading people with “just a gigalo” as he lifts them into the ambulance. Good for him!

  29. Donut Says:

    its a song i can hear at random and then have it stuck in my head the remainder of the day.
    i remember one of the band members said that Reckoning had a winter season feel to it because it was released close to the holidays. so cant completely agree with ur summary, cause i agree with the band in that it feels more like a fall/winter season album.

  30. ScottMalobisky Says:

    no, I didn’t take it that way Mr. Cup , was just thinking that maybe it was a TV show that I had heard about or something….Looked it up ,he was the real thing.

  31. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    To me this song has always been hopelessly lightweight, and while that can sometimes be a good thing “Second Guessing” has never really clicked for me. It is a pleasant listen, I never skip it but I never seek it out either. It just breezes past. REM could likely get away with that at the time, after all they were still mostly hanging around Athens playing clubs, if they released this today I think it would get lambasted by most of us.

  32. Paul Alferink Says:

    Last I heard of Diamond Dave, he had taken over (unsuccessfully) for Howard Stern. Show got canned, and quickly, too. . .

  33. Mario Says:

    I wouldn’t put another comment today if a funny thing didn’t happen to me about this song today: after reading and commenting your review for Make it all okay, I realized that I haven’t yet listened much only Reckoning, so i listened today songs from that album and the only song that I liked is Second guessing…and now you are writing exatcty about it!

  34. ScottMalobisky Says:

    from Bowler and Dray, “‘Second Guessing is something of an oddity.It has the clearest lyric on the record with a seemingly irascible Stipe complaining about people trying to interpret the band from the outside while the band whips up a storm behind him.It sounds like a drunken tantrum slammed onto tape at end of session, Bill’s drums threatening to bring the roof down.If the song is about the press concentration on Stipe’s enigma variations of the previous year-and the fuck you ‘here we are’ line seems to scream ‘just enjoy the song without an autopsy’-it also takes a swipe at the media penchant for following fashion at the expense of any work of substance. As a defiant statement of intent and a promise of longevity it works, but the apparent speed with which it was put together militated against it; playing the album repeatedly over the years, ‘Second Guessing’ reveals itself to be one of those rare REM songs that is all surface and no depth.”

  35. Brian Says:

    I just blogged about the “Peter, Mike and Bill”part from the Dublin shows. The real lyric or Stipey re-writing history?

  36. Jerad Says:

    Going back and listening to the album, it does sound like he is saying “Peter, Mike, and Bill” although I’d never heard that before. I also checked out some old live recordings from when this song was first being played, and it sounded like Michael just replaced this line with another “Who will be your book this season?”

  37. DJ Says:

    This song always reminds me of my dad. No matter how alienated we were from each other when I was younger we could talk about sports. And that is what I think of when I hear “What will be your look this season?
    Who will be your book this season?” Follow that with the ” Here we are” part and it very much reminds me of my dad. By the way those sports conversations as an adolecent led to a great(and thankfully still ongoing) relationship as an adult.

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