September 18, 2007

For obvious reasons, I recently spent a bit of time looking at the “missed connections” ads on Craigslist. It’s kinda depressing, honestly. For one thing, a lot of them aren’t proper “missed connections” ads — many of the posts I’ve seen are cryptic messages to people who they seem to already know, which, uh, seems like cheating, maybe? Most that I’ve read over the weekend were just creepy, lecherous, and deeply unnecessary public records of people ogling each other without putting forth any effort to communicate. These aren’t “missed connections” so much as refused, deferred, or abandoned connections, you know? The best ads come close to the ideal presented in “Chance,” an R.E.M. outtake that stretches a single idea — Michael Stipe reads (presumably fictional) “missed connection” ads in a deadpan monotone over a repetitive groove that sounds a bit like a cheery version of Suicide — into an amiable, albeit mildly annoying song. Stipe’s line readings are mostly quite funny, and the words do well to capture the most beautiful and appealing element of the ads — simple language, vivid concrete details, and the mundane sadness and quiet desperation that informs every single one of them.


24 Responses to “Chance”

  1. dan Says:

    way to make this song sound poignant, matthew. for some reason i always thought stipe was ad-libbing, not reading. but you’re probably right.

    can’t believe you haven’t heard anything back yet. ever read the short story “On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning” by haruki murakami? you should, it’s neat.

    and what do you know, it’s online!

    i originally read it in his book “the elephant vanishes.”

  2. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    By no means is this song good, but it is fun! For me, it is the “King of the Road” of the latter day REM. Fun and just plain stupid. The best part of the whole song is Peter Buck’s comments about it in the In Time liner notes. It does make you wonder though, could this have been turned into something wonderful or was it doomed from the start. (I think likely the latter). 🙂

  3. What did Peter say? I’ve never seen those liner notes.

  4. Kirsten Says:

    Not likely to ever be considered a masterpiece, but I love this fun side to REM and would be happy to hear more.

    Best line: I dropped my frozen dinners, you helped pick them up.

    I also thought it was ad-libbed. I figured Michael had a rough idea about what he wanted to say and maybe even a couple of lines written down then just filled the blanks as he went.

    This is getting tedious – stop!

  5. protimoi86 Says:

    Wow, awesome connection with what’s going on in your life, Matthew! As for those liner notes…

    Peter said something along the lines of (paraphrasing) “I’m good about showing up on time to the studio. One day I come in 15 minutes late and they’ve put this atrocity down on tape. What is it? and why wasn’t i invited? I think I laughed longer than it took them to make this track.”

    Is it creepy that I remember that? I’m not an obsessive stalker fan, I swear, I just read those liner notes over and over again junior year of high school because i never got much homework and thus nothing else to do when i was listening to “Chance.” Great song, really plays up a rare goofy side of the band we don’t see much if at all. Sounds like it would be good to play at a bar mitzvah, I can almost hear a stereotypical Jewish mother pestering her son that he’s not eating enough and looks too thin.

    Luckily the lyrics i DO hear fare better than that. Not much better, but still random and slightly humorous.

  6. 2d Says:

    i think this is such a funny and crazy song, i found it irresistible from first listen. my mom (who likes r.e.m. but is a casual listener) loves loves loves it. i remember playing a few r.e.m. songs for her and choosing this one to show the band’s versatility, and she said “but i thought you were playing only r.e.m.?!?” i laughed. she worried not. she said this song is a gem.

    most brilliant part: “guys, this is getting tedious. stop!”

  7. Martijn Says:

    Oh wow, Haruki Murakami, what a great read his stuff is! “Norwegian Wood” may be the only novel I actually cried to, so sad!!

    As for “Chance”, its “this is getting tedious” bit is by far my favourite part 😉

  8. xman Says:

    stipe is a much better faux-rapper than the two guest faux rappers that were on out of time and around the sun.
    i like the band’s cover of tom’s diner too. “he thinks that i am a goat faced boyyyyy” lol

  9. ADB Says:

    I’ve always liked this one in a throwaway, jokey kind of way but have never paid to much attention to the words before. Have just looked them up and was surprised how poignant they are. Will have to give it another listen…

  10. Mr Cup Says:

    I heard this song once years and years ago and have long since forgotten it. Trying to locate it in the rubble that is boxed CD’s.

    Murakami however…well he’s defining my life at the moment.
    Good call Dan!

  11. Andy Says:

    I have to confess I don’t know this song: where can I find it? It sounds a bit like the Replacements “Lovelines”

  12. Chris Says:

    …I have to say, that’s probably the first time I’ve ever heard anyone refer to Q-Tip as a “faux” rapper. Wow. I mean, wow.

  13. Andy Says:

    Yeah, I had the same response. Q-tip & KRS-One deserve better. Their contributions to those songs might not be their best moments, but they are definitely not “faux” rappers.

  14. Ignis Sol Says:

    Pike Place Market 8 A.M.
    You stood at the coffee stand
    Me in t-shirt, you in blue
    Eye-to-eye, “Hey, I know you!”

  15. xman Says:

    ehh krs-1 and qtip are for the beastie boy crowd. imho, those guys suck. all of em.

    i think that rap’s essence and appeal is based very much on hype and attitude, but when the attitude is just this safe, pitchfork-approved hipster nonsense, i just laff.

  16. ScottMalobisky Says:

    like the no snitch policy of cool leading to many an inner city unsolved murder for example, now that’s attitude…

  17. ScottMalobisky Says:

    ….interesting , those missed connections ads….I’ll be checkng those out occasionally now…….

  18. Paul Alferink Says:

    From Citizen Kane (Paraphased)

    “As I was getting off the ferry, there was a woman in a white dress getting on. I only saw her a moment. I doubt if she ever saw me at all. But not a day goes by when I don’t think of that women in the white dress . . .”

    What everyone else said. Fun. Tedious. Complete wrong for a real album.

    Our eyes met, mine are green
    You’d had a peroxide thing

  19. Kirsten Says:

    Call now.
    Look me up.

  20. xman Says:

    “like the no snitch policy of cool leading to many an inner city unsolved murder for example, now that’s attitude…”

    yea, and that’s the problem. i see the quality of rap as being polarized between two extremes- the asshole crackdealer or the annoying softcore stuff. at this stage i would say that rap is an intristically flawed genre by its aggrandizement of attitude, but sometimes the whole tuff guy thing really works well artistically (jay-z, jadakiss, big l). the suburbanite casual anglophile listener is more drawn to that peace rap stuff, but that stuff’s too soft and lazy for me.

    both idealogies extracted into a corporeal setting manifest in garbage tho.

  21. ScottMalobisky Says:

    thanx xman ( or G’n R for that matter , “works well artistically” , although they’re not as badass as hardcore rap I suppose)
    you’re always provocative :)………and you go back further in this blog than I originally thought (just noticed) , not that it matters.

    Paul, saw Casablanca for the first time yesterday, disgraceful ,huh ?..I think Citizen Kane was #1 movie of top 100 of all time list a few years back, Casablanca like 4 or 5

  22. xman Says:

    badass music is good sometimes. pop is satan’s music, right? 🙂

  23. Paul Alferink Says:

    Yeah, I’m working on the AFI list. Highest ranked movie I need to see is “Singin’ in the Rain.” Last movie I saw from it was “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” which, while not fantastic, finally makes me understand why, in the cartoon where Bugs returns the penguin to the south pole, Humphrey Bogart keeps coming up to Bugs Bunny and saying “Could you help a fellow American who’s down on his luck.” I also know where the crazy jig dancing old prospector comes from . . .

  24. Aerothorn Says:

    I actually love this song. Go figure.

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