Near Wild Heaven
August 23, 2007
“Near Wild Heaven” and “Texarkana” offer the audience a glimpse into what R.E.M. might have been if Mike Mills had been the band’s frontman all along. They aren’t exactly peaks into a grim alternate universe, but the songs make something very clear — compared to Michael Stipe, Mills comes up very short on charisma and mystique, and though his songs are exceptionally sweet and amiable, they aren’t very unique. “Near Wild Heaven” nails its cheery chord progression and breezy Beach Boys harmonies, but when it comes down to it, it’s not a lot more than a highly competent tribute to the sunshine pop of the ’60s. The song doesn’t exactly need to be weighty or weird, but the general lack of tension and subtext sets it apart from most any R.E.M. featuring Stipe as lead vocalist and primary lyricist.