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.


32 Responses to “Near Wild Heaven”

  1. ScottMalobisky Says:

    wow , was just reading about alien abduction …….came back here to this surprising late night entry …life comes at you fast sometimes ……try to be ready

  2. Kirsten Says:

    I think Mike’s sweet 60’s style voice really suits this song. It’s a sweet little song, but like you said, nothing particulary exciting about it lyrically. I love the beautiful melodies and harmonies that carry you up to the heavens. Great fun to sing along to and always puts me in a great mood (even though technically it is a sad song). The music makes me feel like I am flying…

  3. Justin Says:

    Agree with the comments on this song.

    However, regarding future recordings…and say it with me..


  4. Dave Greenlizard Says:

    Out Of Time (and THAT single) were what first sucked me in to REM. Having bought the album and got LMR partly out of my system, I discovered Low and Near Wild Heaven right next to each other in the running order, which blew my mind. One band capable of creating both these songs at the same time? Something special….

  5. jim jos Says:

    I have often wondered why Mike never put out a solo album, just for the hell of it. As a songwriter, does he have songs that he simply keeps to himself? Or does he just write so infrequently? It would probably be pretty good. Maybe not greatest of all time, but it wouldn’t have to be. Just a little something he could put together and to feed his creativity in between R.E.M. releases.

  6. Mr Cup Says:

    Disposable pop at its finest? I’ll take 2 please.

    This is a great song to play on the drive to the beach. Puts you in a good mood as you look for parking space and anticipate the big deep blue yonder.

  7. Paul Alferink Says:

    A very nice song. I like Texarkana better, but I like this one in it’s own way.
    Mostly, Stipe’s voice and lyrics lend themselves to the mystery and distinctness that is REM. But it’s always fascinating that you had 4 people who call played chorded instruments that all wrote songs. GOOD songs. It’s a nice change of pace to hear a Mills song and vocal. It’s like he could have had his own band, and I would have thought the songs nice enough. But here, they stand out a little more, sort of as a counterpoint to the Stipe songs.

    And yes, More Mike Mills on future albums, please. . .

  8. Flor Says:

    One of my favorite R.E.M. songs and I do think there is something of a subtext. Why is the singer living inside NEAR wild heaven, for example. The entirety of the lyrics sound rather bittersweet to me.

  9. Hoainam Says:

    I agree with Mr Cup. Near Wild Heaven is the perfect road trip song and it’s among my first requests when on vacation. I personally think there’s a lot of charisma and mystique in this song. If I listen to it on the first day of vacation (say, on a Utah highway far from home), Near Wild Heaven is a nod to the gleeful ephemera of having time off from work. When I listen to the song on the last day of vacation, however, the song functions as a wistful coda.

    Near Wild Heaven is infused with a whole lot of longing (“Something has gone wrong / And I don’t know how much longer I can take it”) and regret (“And I always thought that it would make me smarter / But it’s only made me harder”) which makes it fit nicely into the R.E.M. catalog for me. Along with the Pumpkins’ 1979, Near Wild Heaven ranks among the best bittersweet songs to grace the radio dial in the 90s.

    Anyone else care to post their top vacation songs? Here are some of mine:
    Near Wild Heaven, natch
    San Diego Zoo – The 6ths
    Two Way Action – Andrew Bird
    Lovedust – Luna
    Just Like Heaven – The Cure

  10. Jared Says:


    I don’t listen to it that often, but when the mood strikes me, NWH is simply: super fun, super happy, and just makes me feel great. THAT is a musical accomplishment.

  11. Jared Says:

    ***even though the lyrics are not 🙂

  12. ryan Says:

    A definite highlight from Out Of Time, albiet not an obvious at first – especially among stand-outs like LMR, Low, Belong, Texarcana & of course Country Feedback!

    Back when I got this album, this song (like Texarkana) took a while to sink in, but now I can’t imagine the album without it (them.)

    The video (, although not necessarily one of their best or most innovative, does act as a nice little time capsule to a period when R.E.M. looked their best (IMO.) Not too arty, but not trying too hard either! Plus, Michael still had hair and (even though “a three legged dog is still a dog”, as Michael once said) there were eight legs rather than just six in the band!!! : )

  13. dan Says:

    regarding a comment above about the possibility of songs mills keeps to himself, there’s a video floating around of him doing a (really, really, terrible) song that is presumably an original of his. something about an eagle.

    however, if he put out a whole album of “near wild heaven”-type stuff, i’d probably like it. 60’s pastiche can be great.

    (though i gotta say, i never much cared for “love is all around.”)

  14. 2d Says:

    “the eagle song” is the worst song in the world. ever. from all alternate universes. the lyric “and i’m gonna fly faster than the fastest thing of all” alone is enough to earn it that bottom place…

    “near wild heaven” is great though. the video is really sweet and good-spirited also, something they tried to recapture at the end of “leaving new york” but, in my opinion, haven’t quite suceeded…

  15. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    A couple points:

    1. Please, no solo albums from members of REM – save the material for the band.

    2. I know Mike Mills writes the music to a lot of REM songs, but do we know for certain that he wrote the music to NWH and Texarkana? I mean, Michael sings songs he did not write the music for. Do we even know that Mike wrote the words to these two songs? Maybe they just had him sing them because his voice seemed right. If anybody know definitively I would love to know.

    3. Didn’t like this song that well when I first got the CD as a teenager years ago, but love it now. It is light and fairly disposable, and certainly is the closest thing they have ever done to actually writing a Byrds song, but it is “serious” disposbale pop as oppossed to Stand or Shiny Happy People, and I believe that is what gives this song longevity that the other two may not have.

    4. More Mike Mills harmonies (and occasional leads) please! Can I get an amen!

  16. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    In unrelated thoughts, just thought I’d pass this on in case you don’t know. Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, said in an interview with Rollingstone that Coldplay’s song “The Hardest Part” off of the X&Y CD is their attempt to write an REM song. If you know the song it actually does have a strong REM-esque vibe.

  17. 2d Says:

    “the hardest part” is one of my least favourite songs on that album. i read somewhere that it’s actually almost a rip-off of “losing my religion”, chord-wise, and that they almost left it off because it was so similar. i am not a musician so i cannot say how much exactly, but it always struck me how completely different my feelings are for two songs that are supposed to be much alike. only goes to show how r.e.m. have that “je ne sais quoi”, that magic that is so subtle in everything they do… did?… hope they recapture that with the new album.

  18. kirkl Says:

    a refreshing tune. thanks mm.

  19. ScottMalobisky Says:

    the smarter/harder line is very intriguing, too edgy for the unmitigated bliss that is this tune ….maybe he’s talking about purgatory or limbo ,NEAR Wild Heaven, in unrelated news ,when I turned on my computer just now the Home Page headline screamed , “Scientists find hole in universe” ..(!!) Holy Moly Guacamole , a void apparently a billion miles wide of absolute nothingness…maybe that’s limbo.

  20. ScottMalobisky Says:

    CORRECTION: that’s 1 billion light years across (staggering)
    Whoops , oh Lordy, well I did it again…

  21. 2d Says:

    can you post a link to the article, scott? that is the strangest thing i have ever heard…

  22. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, it was on the Yahoo Home Page…….”nothing , not even dark matter or a black hole there..”

  23. maclure Says:

    Nice write up and comments on this thread about NWH – nothing more to add about that.

    BWD – I’ll amen your number 4 point! Solo albums might be OK though, I really like hearing Michael’s voice in different contexts ie. recently with One Giant Leap, Coldplay or Mr Gainsburg Revisted. I quite like the idea of the band getting their musical excesses out of their system then coming back together to make an REM record good and proper…

    “the hardest part” is pretty close to LMR in my opinion. They are both in a minor key, change chords at roughly the same points, similar tempo and Coldplay have aimed for the kind of seamless quality of song with no obvious chorus. Towards the end of the song it descends into Coldplayish noise and not like LMR at all. But agree with 2d that “the hardest part” just sort of bumbles along without any real magic. And there’s no mandolin.

  24. ScottMalobisky Says:

    now I’m thinking this is not total bliss at all..except for the hopeful bah-bah-bah-bah..I think he’s obviously singing about that moment(s) when you are so near to getting so close to someone you really really like , maybe after a couple of dates or something, maybe you have kissed a little bit and you REALLY dig this person, almost there, so near wild unbridled animal heaven but you are totally unsure if it is going to happen or not ,so close but so far away , walking on air but thinking you’re about to get blown out of the water .but hopeful so so desperately hopeful, liking your chances, thinking the feeling just might be mutual. (for once)

  25. Mr Cup Says:

    The thing that stands out to me here is how suited to each other are the voices of Mills and Stipe. They compliment each other so beautifuly.

    Amen brother!

    “There’s a hole in the Universe, Dear Liza, Dear Liza.”

  26. […] Near Wild Heaven “Near Wild Heaven” and “Texarkana” offer the audience a glimpse into what R.E.M. might have […] […]

  27. Ignis Sol Says:

    There is a hole in the universe and that is where you will find me searching for meaning. Observing, learning and discovering. “Near Wild Heaven” not near enough. I can see it, smell it, almost touch it……

  28. Bruno Says:

    I don’t see the LMR connection at all in The Hardest Part. Musically LMR repeated several (deceptively simple) progressions to great effect – no obvious chorus – just part A and part B and nothing else is needed.

    The Hardest Part is a straightforward song with more run-of-the-mill(s) chords, an obvious verse, an obvious chorus and an obvious 3rd part (post-chorus and play-out).

    I’m not saying Chris Martin didn’t claim they were aiming at REM but I don’t think you could draw a parallel between the two songs. Not near enough!!

    The timeless back and forth quality of the parts in LMR is the thing that would be hard to match.

    Oh… Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah!

  29. Heyberto Says:

    For me, this song is about context. Within the context of the song, everything feels appropriate. The mood is a cheery, the lyrics are mostly upbeat and positive. The harmonies fit very well a la Mike Mills’ lead vocal. If Stipe had sung it, then I don’t think it would be as good. Within the context of REM’s catalog, and pop music in general, I disagree that it’s not unique. No one else was writing songs like this. Musically, it’s great. Lyrically, it still has an REM flavor while keeping itself simple. The overall cadence of the vocals are perfect. I love this song and have to disagree with Matthew on just about every point.. not that I’m arguing, just a difference in opinion.

  30. Bruno Says:

    It’s definitely cheery in sound Heyberto, but you might want to take another look at the lyrics. I’m not sure they can be described as upbeat and positive. It’s a pretty straightforward take on a relationship that doesn’t have the magic it once did. It sounds all happy with all the harmonies on the Near Wild Heaven chorus, but he’s saying that it’s not near enough.

  31. Heyberto Says:

    I guess I’ve always inerpreted them differently than that Bruno.

  32. Kirsten Says:

    Surely it’s about that moment you realise this relationship is over. Time to break-up, just to a happier tune.

    Maybe the meanings to all REM songs are in that giant void in the sky they’ve just discovered?? (not meaning to get back to Michael being an alien)

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