Departure

August 28, 2007

“Departure” has three verses, and though each seems to be coming from a very different place, they all arrive at the same point:  No matter what you do or how hard you try, there’s no way to fit every experience into one life.  The world is too big, life is too short, and some things just aren’t meant for everyone. It’s a bittersweet realization, but amid the song’s rapid-fire blast of free-associative lyrics, Michael Stipe slips in some pretty simple advice on how to deal with the limitations of mortality: “Go, go, go, yeah.”

39 Responses to “Departure”

  1. Mr Cup Says:

    A song to amass speeding fines to.

    If I was to turn bogan and hang out at speedways, I’d like to have this blasting in qudrophonic dissonance at great volume.

    Rock out.
    With yer Monster cock out!

  2. Kirsten Says:

    There is so much that I can’t do.
    There is so much that I can’t do.

    There’s something about that line that I find so beautifully honest. And coming from someone who I would believe if he told me there is nothing he can’t do.


  3. Yeah, I know. That whole verse kills me — I really, really, really like the “I’ve come a long way since, uh, whatever / shit, I still see that word and think of YOU” part. For one, it’s just really cute. But it’s also so real. I mean, on a very literal level, I really relate to associating words with people and then getting kinda sentimental about it. But it also makes the song seem so much more intimate, which works quite a bit given that he’s singing about some pretty huge things.

  4. RDB Says:

    Is this their best flat out ROCK song since “Just a Touch”? I think maybe.

  5. ScottMalobisky Says:

    this is one of the arguments against declaring Finest Worksong their hardest rocking song; so true Kirsten, about that line, that’s why he says it to remind people that he can’t do everything (like fix your transmission , for example, I reckon)..Such a cool, cool song….I like to sing that “here it comes” thing when I feel IT coming , an imminent episode mutation howling , helps me thru IT, they say one should sing during an anxiety attack , but sometimes the moment and place ain’t right.

  6. Kirsten Says:

    The fact that he admits that he can’t do everything makes him even more perfect than if he could….

  7. Mr Cup Says:

    I thought he was saying:

    There is so much that I can do.
    There is so much that I can’t do.

    in the usual ‘said too much/haven’t said enough’ and ‘compliment/complicate’ manner. Do you mean he’s actually re-emphasising a line rather than contradicting?

  8. Kirsten Says:

    He has to ’cause dickheads like me won’t believe him. Must be frustrating sometimes to have to convince people that you’re not that different from them.

    (But it didn’t work – I still think he’s perfect. Sorry Michael, I am but a mere mortal shadowed in your glory!)

  9. Mr Cup Says:

    Forgive her Michael. She’s just a very young boy.

  10. ScottMalobisky Says:

    so their hardest rocking songs would be ..this , Just A Touch, Turn You Inside Out, Begin The Begin, Finest Worksong, These days, Animal ?, Burning Hell….Leave , Undertow (sometimes my favorite REM song), Binky The Doormat (sometimes my favorite REM song)…hmnn,what else .Just learnt about William Greider .

  11. Figgy Says:

    I think ‘So Fast, So Numb’ rocks too. Add that to your list, ScottM!🙂

  12. ScottMalobisky Says:

    and , of course , Monster, how can I forget ? Had a brain fart , it was wafting thru the folds of my humunculous

  13. davegassner Says:

    I am currently editing a video of my vacation this summer to Athens,GA, and, rather appropriately, this song is used when we are, well, departing, from Regina Saskatchewan.

  14. Figgy Says:

    “There is so much that I can’t do” – a simple statement that works in so many ways. Such as… I don’t have the skills to do certain things. Or I don’t have the time to do everything I’d like to do. Or I don’t have the time to develop the skills to do certain things I’d like to do. Or I have other (perhaps very worthwhile) commitments in my life that keep me from doing other things.

    As Matthew said in his review, there’s no way to fit every experience into one life. But also, we’ve got to accept that and be happy with what we’ve got and what we CAN do. “Go, go, go, yeah”, as the man says.

  15. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I’ve always associated the “theres’ so much to tell you , so little time” line with “I have seen things that you will never see” from ‘Try Not To Breathe’..I mean really , try to imagine the things that Stipe has seen , experienced that common folks like ourselves never will…just little things like the intricate and subtle details of the decor inside of a first-rate hotel room somewhere in Denmark, for example…..I think Iggy Popp’s ‘Lust For Life’ shares the same feel of this tune . Just grab life by the balls and get some > Do as I say not as I do now (I told you that before.)

  16. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    I love Departure and always felt this song would have been a great single for Hi-Fi, possibly even the lead single. The words are cool and the guitar riff is simple and propelling. I feel like I am moving when I hear this song. Living in Utah I love the personal connection to coming in to Salt Lake City over the Salt Flats – if you have never been out to the Salt Flats in western Utah there is nothing like it in the world – memorable and otherworldly – in a desolate, strang sort of way. Your amazed by the unique beauty of it and at the same time can feel very, very alone. Not only is it an unusual place but you can be a long way from anyone or anywhere. I love NAIHF, its a shame it sorta got overlooked as a CD, although that also means more secret gems for real fans.

  17. Figgy Says:

    Absolutely, ScottM. Mr Stipe without doubt has a lot to tell us from his own experiences of life. But I think he’s also saying that, in general, there is so much to our world that none of us will ever get close to knowing it all. There’s just too much to tell.

  18. Paul Alferink Says:

    Best Line:
    I’ve come a long way since, uh, whatever,
    shit, I still see that word and think of you.

    Like this song, not as much as a lot of people, but.

    Best REM quote about this song:
    (Paraphased)

    Rolling Stone Journalist: So why did you mention Rolling Stone write William Grieder in the song?

    J.M. Stipe: “Um, because he rhymed with spider and glider?”

  19. Kirsten Says:

    Ha! That’s Brilliant!

  20. Tim Says:

    Being from Salt Lake City myself I also have always felt a connection to Departure as well. I’ve also come across the salt flats many a time, (although usually thinner in the wallet having supported the economy of the small gambling border town of Wendover, NV.)

    Departure is definitely REM at its rocking finest, and also fits the overall theme of New Adventures.

    I remember Departure got some radio airplay on a couple of the local rock stations in SLC when NAIHF was released just because the song mentioned Salt Lake.

  21. ScottMalobisky Says:

    flew into Salt Lake City once from the east in the early evening on my way to California during a brewing thunderstorm with lightning over the mountains, it was incredible …Figgy , you made me think of something, that’s what it’s like when I try to write in my journal these days—I always feel like I have so much to say but I never really say it–just too much , not in the sense that there is so much happening in my life but more in the sense that there’s so much happening in my head that I would like to touch on (prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper way and it seems that the act of writing is just slow and inadequate ..becomes tedious but still I try to keep it going; like a daily responsibility or something I don’t feel right unless I write a few words there, and it’s fun to look back on what you wrote , adds a certain stabiliy to my life , I don’t know) …….And yet our world is so small in the scheme of things…..I have been thinking lately; If UFO’s are truly the spaceships of aliens from distant galaxies and all, WHY would they have lights on them ?!! Think about that , with the kinds of beyond our comprehension technology they would have to be using and all, WHY would their “ships” need lights, have lights??!! I am surprised I don’t hear this thought from the so-called experts…And there are those who say that the whole alien thing is a grand deception by Satan to mislead the human race in the final days, etc,etc..that aliens are really demons…. that whole argument . blah blah blah

  22. Kirsten Says:

    It’s dark in outter space.

  23. ScottMalobisky Says:

    that IS high-lair-ee-us , Kirsten !!!!!!!!!!

  24. 2d Says:

    departure > aliens? how much did i miss while i was sleeping???

    anyway, nothing constructive to say about this song. it’s one of those “enjoy the moment and scream your lungs out” kind of songs, and, surprisingly, it seems to achieve exactly what it’s trying to send out: don’t think and mope about what you can’t do, just enjoy every second of what you can do!

    oh, and it’s one of those few songs where michael uses “fuck” (ok, “fuck-up”), and it’s really interesting how this word is placed in such different contexts and adds just the right amount of flavour to improve the message of the song. (“psychics, fuck all…”, “so fuck you man!”, “fuck me kitten”, “i never understood, don’t fuck with me!”, “what a fuck-up”, “fuck with me and traumatise”). much more meaningful each time than in the hands of a less capable lyricist.

  25. maclure Says:

    Yeah, wake up to a new song on here and some hilarious comments on the thread. First heard this in the encore on the second Milton Keynes night, July 95. It was my biggest gig to date, I was a teenager and me and my pal were trying to enjoy the moshpit, listen to the words and sneak to the edges to get a headstart on the 60,000 people there trying to get to the train station… I was really happy with the album version – slightly faster and rockier than I remembered it (and slightly faster and rockier than the other version which ended up as a b-side).

  26. Paul Alferink Says:

    As a fuck side note, I always think it’s hilarious when I hear Kenneth on the radio. I always listen to the end. When the song was first released, they always played the clean version. Now they always play the dirty version. I pretty sure they don’t even understand the words at the end or know there is a difference.
    Yay FCC!

  27. Kurt Says:

    Yeah, I love this one. The alternate live version b-side to E-Bow (!I th?nk) is edgier and better. This is one of my go to songs.

    This song is what I thought and hoped Monster would sound like.

  28. protimoi86 Says:

    fucking weird. i love this song and i was listening to a live version yesterday from one of the final Monster tour shows. i came to the realization that the words in the “where everyone is young forever” verse are some of the best lyrics on record. makes me think of college, which is starting up again for me. it’s my 21st birthday today and the past week and a half has been absolutely insane…i don’t feel like myself, which Stipe could probably relate to from being jetlagged due to constant travel. i need to slow it down, and it sounds like the character in this song needs to do the same!

  29. maclure Says:

    Happy Birthday protimoi86. Oh, to be 21 again!

  30. Kirsten Says:

    Ohh, Happy 21st protimoi86! If I try hard enough I can just remember what it was like….🙂

    Michael was writing songs like Talk About The Passion at that age. Amazing. Puts your own life into perspective.

  31. ScottMalobisky Says:

    2d, what song is that “…fuck with me and traumatize..”?

  32. Kirsten Says:

    It’s Binky The Doormat.

  33. ScottMalobisky Says:

    ok ,right , and doesn’t it sound like he’s saying ,”I will be your little a-hole.” ? LOL

  34. Jerad Says:

    I remember hearing this for the first time in ’95 on a bootleg CD that I bought in the summer of a show from February of that year. I though that it was so cool that when I finally got to see them in Hershey, PA that September that I could sing along to the “brand new” song.

  35. Justin Says:

    One of my very favorites. It’s punk rock Beach Boys. The perfect synthesis of two the band’s influences. The lyrics are so immediate, specific, vague. I think this song gets ignored a lot because of it’s superficial simplicity. But there’s something to it that runs quite contrary to its structure.

  36. Gerard Says:

    I’d like to think Stipe is yelling “BUTTER” at the end of each chorus.

  37. Kirsten Says:

    I thought it was “FIRE!”

  38. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Justin , cool thoughts there
    “there’s something to it that runs contrary to it’s structure”..

  39. Ben Says:

    I just found this blog, and being the ginormous R.E.M. fan that I am, it looks like I’m in for a treat…

    The screeching guitar sound that follows the opening riffs of this song always reminds me of airplane wheels touching down on a runway. Given the opening lyrics’ description of finally reaching one’s destination after a long flight, it just made sense.

    I love this song, and it’s always one I try to listen to on the rare occasion that I’m on a plane.


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