September 9, 2007

Appropriately enough, my strongest memory of Murmur is tied to a vague, murky recollection of a cold, lonely night circa January 1994. My parents and siblings were off someplace for the evening, and I remember listening to the album — which I’d only owned for a couple weeks at that point — in the living room with all the lights out. The only bits of illumination came from outside the window — the lamp post from across the street, and the dim glow from the snowbanks. I listened to the entire record, but only “Catapult” is tied in with this memory. Maybe it’s because it was my initial favorite? Or perhaps it’s got something to do with the words — the nostalgia for childhood, the specific reference to the time of day, the feeling that something fun or beautiful is happening someplace else, but you’re not there. There’s something so cheerful in Peter Buck’s jaunty chord progressions and Michael Stipe’s exclamations on the chorus, but also sort of distant and obscure. It’s as though the song is a big party, but there’s a secret password needed to get inside.


34 Responses to “Catapult”

  1. drew. Says:

    i first heard this song the week it came out. i was going to a Milwaukee Bucks game with my family, and as i was in my anti-social teenage years, i listened to Murmur during the entire game on my Walkman. Catapult and Sitting Still still remind me of that day.

  2. ScottMalobisky Says:

    that was an interesting write-up ( I really like those ones where you or commentators talk about the song in reference to your personal expericnces with it —somethig specific like that — I guess you didn’t mention that intoxicating bass becuse it’s too obvious (?)…Boy ,is 2d gonna be freaked out when he sees that this is the song you went with (I believe he’s the one who predicted this , said l he figured out your Murmurs order system ), I always think of a child sorta hiding , then being catapulted into a more serious teenage then adult existence when I hear this one…Then one day he wakes up singing , “this used to be my playground , this used to be my childhood dream..”

  3. xman Says:

    i always thought this one would make a good theme song to “the suite life”.
    stipe doesnt like this one apparently. i think it’s an alright song though.

  4. 2d Says:

    *freaks out* nah, it only goes to show that i noticed the reviews are made in album order, doesn’t take a prophet for that no? (but, just in case, i predict i am going to finish a paper i have to write in two days, and get a high grade. no use missing out on using any chance to make a wish!)

    as for the song, it’s pretty amazing. all the parts flow seamlessly into one another, and the lyrics are so sweet and surreal, like fragments of a child’s thoughts lost in his own fantasy world. this track really captures the spirit of youth and innocence, just like the rest of the album.

    i usually listen to murmur on headphones, in order to hear all the beautiful textures and sounds in the background. this song has a hypnotic feel to it, unwrapping its endless guitar loop melody so naturally it always pulls me in a bit deeper than most of the album. at the very end of the song though, as it fades into (near-)silence, “sitting still” abruptly starts with the loud drum hit and instantly shatters the magic. very disturbing effect, it’s like being pulled out of the alpha phase – or, indeed, r.e.m. 🙂

  5. 2d Says:

    p.s.: matthew, don’t forget to categorize it! seems to me like this blog is halfway through the catalogue!! :-O

  6. Paul Alferink Says:

    Initially, one of my favorites, also. Cooled on it a bit, but still like it. My second attempt to start a band we played this song. Mostly because me and the bass player each go to pick a song from a band the other person liked. I picked some folk implosion song. He picked this one. . . We sucked. REAL BAD.

    Best line:
    We in step, in hand, your mother remembers this.

  7. Elliot H. Says:

    This was actually my least favorite on Murmur (granted, the least favorite song on my favorite album is still really good). I think it’s because it has a pretty boring ending.

    However, the song does capture the vibe of nostalgia perfectly. As the “remembering” of the verses is soft and far away, while the memory itself, which I see as the chorus, is very uplifting and free.

  8. ScottMalobisky Says:

    2d, I’m trying to figure out what you just said…You mean on each album reviewed the songs picked are in order ? That’s not the case……or do you mean he takes a song from each album in terms of the order of the albums..I don’t believe that’s the case either, So , what do you mean?

  9. ScottMalobisky Says:

    xman , why do you say Stipe doesn’t like this one ?

  10. Thanks for catching that I forgot to categorize it!

    This song is still one of my top favorites on Murmur, along with “Pilgrimage” and “Laughing.” It’s a really underrated song.

    And yeah, we’re slightly past the halfway point right now in terms of how many entries there will be — there’s more songs than entries coming up because a few rarities will get grouped together for reasons that will make total sense when I get to them.

  11. 2d Says:

    scott, i was only talking about how the songs from “murmur” are reviewed. select the “murmur” category and check it out, chronologically 😉

    matthew, those are my top 3 favourites off “murmur” too! cool.

  12. xman Says:

    i read in an interview c. monster era stipe said he didnt like it and that’s why they haven’t played it since 1989. i was surprised when i read that- they always knock the songs i like.

    bill did some nice work on this one. has anyone heard the synth demo? i thought a version was due to surface on murmurs last year but i guess not?

  13. jim jos Says:

    we were little boys,
    we were little girls
    boys in bed, girls in bed.
    close our eyes and sleep sweet dreams.
    awake to a new day tomorrow.

    Most misheard Murmur lyric from this song
    “March could be darker, was, for me, much could be darker”

    I remember saying, “hey as R.E.M. says, Much could be darker”
    then I found out that it was March, but it doesn’t matter, love the song all the same.

    Good comments and write up. did we miss anything?

  14. xman Says:

    wasnt it porch could be darker?

  15. Kirsten Says:

    Well, I don’t have much to add. It’s a great song, love the bass and Peter’s guitar work. Use to be one of my favourites, but I listened to it to death, but I still really enjoy it. I’m listening to Murmur tonight on my walk home from work, so I’ll skip straight to this one. Might give me something more intelligent to add once it’s fresh in my mind…

  16. ScottMalobisky Says:

    actually there are synths overdubbed on to the album version, no?
    dark march. the Nazis into Paris
    dark porch .Pearl Jam

  17. xman Says:

    maybe just vague synth? cant really tell, the guitar/bass harmonies are pretty thick.
    but i was reffin the steven hague demo. supposedly its pretty bad and totally 80’s, but that is why i must have it. i must have it!
    i have many rare songs to trade. lucky piece, anyone?

  18. Mr Cup Says:

    I like to think it’s ‘Orange could be darker’. It’s my response whenever I get asked what I think of a picture or something.

    I have tended to overlook Catapult a lot as it sits between two of my favourite tracks, but on it’s own it is as strong as any. Ditto the comments on bass and guitar parts.

    Having just read the interview in Q with Stipe and Rufus about song writing, Stipe said he learned a technique from Pylon where if you get to a chorus and aren’t sure what to do, sing about animals or repeat a word. Seems to work pretty well.

  19. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    I like this song a lot, bouncy and mysterious. A pretty good early pop song. All that said, not a classic though. Good while its on, I don’t tire of it, bit I usually don’t seek it out either.

  20. Ignis Sol Says:

    “Catapult” reminds me of two places in time.

    The first about ten years ago when I was a recording engineer for a small production company. I was heavily into punk and ska-punk (my best from college is in a great band called Mustard Plug – new album “In Black and White” in stores tomorrow 😉 – ). My friend and I used to drive to nearby Grand Rapids to see crazy shows. I would bring along music for listening. One time I dusted off Murmur and played “Catapult” because its jaunty energy seemed appropriate for the Israeli punk bands we were about to see. The song just stuck with me because of the people, place and music that night. I heard a connection between “Catapult” and the one and half-minute songs the young Israeli boy-punks were belting out. Those bands were entertaining, talented and very friendly. Their songs exuded an angry frustration with their current state of affairs. The lines “we were little boys…” hints at an innocent nostalgia, point zero time in our lives before a kind of chaos takes over. Sometimes chaos can create beauty.

    The second instance ties me to my current city. While taking the bus to work everyday at a job I no longer have, I would pass by an art studio called [catapult]. At this era in my life I was a DJ spinning mostly trance and psy-trance (a vast difference from punk). By coincidence, I went to a party at this space and met some folks who were also into R.E.M. and big fans of Murmur. They were also reminded of “Catapult” whenever they saw this building. I realized then, as I do with this blog, that I am not alone in my love of all things R.E.M. I was invited to play a small art opening soon after. I brought along my Murmur vinyl and slipped in “Catapult” between two electro pieces. The energy motivated the self-conscious crowd. And it was very appropriate

    Thanks for reading and letting me share this with you all.

  21. By the way, I was amazed that people didn’t notice the thing with Murmur earlier. It wasn’t intentional until I did “Laughing.”

  22. 2d Says:

    i noticed with “talk about the passion” first, but i didn’t know if it was coincidence or not 😉

    and ignis, those are really nice stories. wow, a trance dj. pretty neat. i think that’s a really cool job, being a dj. with trance it’s not so much, but with other types of music (house especially), i think your hearing will be gone in a year 😐

  23. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    I actually always associate this song in my mind with Counting Crows song of the same title. Counting Crows’ “Catapult” (which (I actually prefer to REM’s) is the lead track on their Recovering The Satellites CD, and I have always thought of Counting Crows as a descendent of REM, an american band that relies heavily on elements of folk and 60’s rock. Very much a roots rock band (although Counting Crows is explicitlt Americana roots rock, while REM is only influenced by it, sort of twists it to its own thing). Still, I have always though Adam Duritz and the boys likely listened to a fair amount of REM and have always wondered if their CAtapult might not be indirectly inspired by REM’s. It is my mind at least. Oh well, enough mental wanderings. Have a great day fellow posters!

  24. Ignis Sol Says:

    My heavy DJ days are a bit behind me. I still DJ on occasion for special events but not at the intensity or the volume of not too long ago. Luckily, my hearing is fine. Thanks for the concern, 2d 🙂

    I like House music, too. I grew up not too far from Chicago and used to go to parties there back in my Midwestern days. My musical tastes sometimes contradicted each other if that is possible. Punk, folk, trance, House, etc… I just wanted to be some place where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive… To steal a stolen phrase….

  25. Mr Cup Says:

    Nice work Ig. That sort of diversity is healthy I think.

  26. David T. Says:

    > It’s as though the song is a big party, but there’s a secret password needed to get inside.

    Matthew–in a single sentence, you have summed up much of the appeal REM has for me overall.

    I’m still looking for the password, I think, but I’m enjoying the search…

  27. Kirsten Says:

    File under password….

  28. Mr Cup Says:

    Most of us have probably felt the same way David T, without articulating it before. Seems we all got up to the party, didn’t know the password so had our own parties on the porch which became as much fun as the main event. The revelry outside promted one observer to comment “porch…could be darker”.

    ok-me have coffee now.

  29. Kirsten Says:

    That’s it Mr Cup! The party on the front porch – that’s US!! And happily so. Also reminds me of the clip for Billy Bragg’s “You Woke Up My Neighbourhood” with Peter & Michael on the front porch, skipping, dancing, the golf clubs and, of course, the beach ball. Oh, and Michael’s hat with STIPE written on it.

  30. Mr Cup Says:

    I’d forgotten about that clip. The song is on loop in head right now.
    Great song!

  31. ScottMalobisky Says:

    where do you guys get this stuff at ?

  32. David T. Says:

    > Seems we all got up to the party, didn’t know the password so had our own parties on the porch which became as much fun as the main event.

    Cool…I think that makes me an REM tail-gater (I know that it sounds childish…)

  33. Dave G. Says:

    The song is even better if you convince yourself Stipe’s singing “Cat afloat!”

    Whoever said they liked Counting Crows’ “Catapult” better, I concur. Not that R.E.M.’s is anything other than great, but the Crows tune is the jam.

  34. REMFIELD Says:

    I think the meaning of this song is a little dark. It’s about kids getting punished for some reason and hiding from their parents because the beatings are coming. Hear the howl of the rope as it hits your fanny. They can’t understand why they were getting beaten which is why they are asking if they missed anything. The beatings could get worse in March. Did I miss anything? Did I I miss anything?

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