February 17, 2008

In “Suspicion,” the sound is the setting: The gentle chimes and subdued beats evoke the image of an immaculate, artfully decorated high-end hotel lounge. The textures of the piece are understated but incredibly suggestive — you can hear the light shifting in the room, the sparkle on the edge of the glasses, the colors and the curves of the furniture’s retro-modern design. We’re right there with Michael Stipe’s protagonist, but he’s distant and aloof, doing everything he can to keep himself from thinking about his slowly disintegrating love affair. He can numb himself a bit, but he can’t shake his doubts, or his infatuation. The strings carry much of the song’s quiet melancholy, but Stipe’s understated performance is what kills. His expression of love is sincere, but he can’t overcome his paranoia, or repair the growing rift between himself and his lover. In the end, all he can do is listen to the music, and retreat into the world of dreams.

33 Responses to “Suspicion”

  1. Macphisto Says:

    I predict that 7 chineSe bros. or ROCKVILLE is next.

  2. Aerothorn Says:

    Suspicion is one of those songs that everyone loves, yet I’ve never been able to connect to. To me, it’s like Reveal – it’s not bad, I just can’t make an emotional connection to it.

  3. protimoi Says:

    2 in a day, Matthew! Feeling spunky, are we?

    I love love love Suspicion, it’s one of the band’s sexiest songs and the one i think most personifies and mainstreams the sound of Up. I saw a clip of them performing this during the recording of the album, it sounded much rougher then. I always wonder how it would have sounded with Bill Berry’s input…

  4. Kirsten Says:

    I love this one! I associate it with Sad Professor, in the sense that they both make you want to drink until you pass out on the floor. Speaking of which, it is a good song to listen to whilst lying on the floor in the dark. Or to curl up in bed with.


  5. ScottMalobisky Says:

    a high end hotel lounge indeed
    and Stipe is stoned immaculate

    love the guitar solo
    it ripples up the spine

    “no , I never had a chain saw..”

  6. Meriste Says:

    I very nearly posted it on Livejournal’s Audiography MP3 rotation community for “The Sexiest Songs” theme, except that “Crush With Eyeliner” won out for my REM entry. Anyway, I’ve always thought the relationship in this song is still being begun (or being attempted to be begun by one party only), but the protagonist is resisting all efforts of his seducer out of jadedness with her kind. 🙂

  7. Alex Says:

    I just recently listened to this song on a turntable with headphones and marveled at the guitar part during the verses…obviously the bass and bells stand out here, but the guitar came out and made itself known to me…it’s nothing fancy, just Peter staying on one note and strumming along, but in the context of the song it suddenly felt like an attractive girl dancing by herself swaying back and forth, not trying to prove anything, just in her own groove.

  8. Jerad Says:

    This song has always left me feeling absolutely nothing. I can’t help but think that this one suffered from the bands’ now-admitted zero chemistry during the Up sessions. Still, after seeing them play it on that tour, some of my female friends insisted that I just didn’t get the song, as a guy. They said it was definitely a “girl song.”

  9. Mr Cup Says:

    “no , I never had a chain saw..” haven’t laughed this much in weeks.
    Thanks Bisky!

    Some songs change your mood and some songs suite your mood. This is heavily in the latter. It’s also the sort of song that I wouldn’t listen to had it not been an REM song.

    Maybe it’s best listened to In a hotel lounge? Another resort style song?

  10. Lotwala Says:

    I like the mellow sound of this song… it really captures a certain paranoia.

  11. 2d Says:

    i think this is r.e.m.’s most hypnotic song, it’s swaying and circular, wonderfully atmospheric and totally sexy.

    wasn’t this also a nod to elvis’ “suspicious minds”?

  12. gluefoot Says:

    good to see the reference to stipe’s beautifully understated singing matthew.. the melody is so tender and delicate, over the quiet insistence of that super bass line and the lo-fi atmospherics of the music..

    i can see why a lot of people mightn’t like the song.. it’s the type of subtle number that would appeal to less rather than more.. but for me it’s one of the key tracks on UP which is r.e.m.’s overlooked masterpiece in many ways..

    the character’s aloofness and distance described by matthew is perfectly matched by the late-night shimmering nerve-pricking tones of the music, the character restrained yet quietly desperate, woozy and heady, perhaps hoping for the clarity of the morning’s waiting reprise

  13. maclure Says:

    Interesting to read the comments for this one. Spot on from Matthew, as usual.

    This song went from being one my faves on UP to one of my most forgettable to now somewhere in the middle. As Mr Cup says, some songs suite your mood and this is one. I’ll definitely give it another listen after some of these “sexiest song” comments, sounds rather nice.

    I was a bit mystified this was a single – apart from that lovely guitar bit in the middle (which is more thanks to Buck’s effects box than to the music itself) it was always going to be dead before it made it to radio. Why Not Smile should’ve been a single instead.

  14. gluefoot Says:

    yeah v. strange choice for a single alright maclure..

    one other aside, anyone seen the (brilliant) documentary on the making of UP ‘falls to climb’?.. they show this song being rehearsed and scott mccaughey does a harmony that is horrifically out of tune.. i’m sure he was just a bit ropey on the day but i’m surprised they didn’t try to edit it out..

  15. Krug Says:

    I’m surprised no one’s pointed out the very SINISTER side to this song. I think on one level it’s about as “romantic” as Pavement’s “Carrot Rope” another song that could be/probably is about a rapist. And in the case of the Pavement, a child rapist.

    Something very wrong is going on in “Suspicion.” The protoganist is NOT a nice guy and the whole narcotic feeling of the thing seems more date-rapish than “broken-hearted.”

  16. “I can’t help but think that this one suffered from the bands’ now-admitted zero chemistry during the Up sessions”

    Oh man, that’s nuts, if anything, this is a great example of a band really gelling on an incredibly inspired and sophisticated arrangement. It’s a really subtle song, and it rewards close listening.

    I was sold on it right away — I saw the band debut it in concert, and spent months listening to a shitty recording of the show on cassette, desperately waiting for a studio recording.

  17. Clare Says:

    This one is more like it, really moves me everytime I hear it & don’t know quite why. Think the instrumentation is so lamenting & lovely & Stipe’s voice at it’s most soothing. I agree Kirsten I always think of this with Sad Professor which I like equally. You can definitely feel Michael’s pain through some of this album, he has said since he was at a low ebb & that makes Up all the more honest & real.

  18. Paul Alferink Says:

    I think you got the hotel part right. This sounds like the light jazz crap you here at airport hotels with some guy playing his casio with the tip jar on it. I mean, if your stuck there, you can ignore him and drink while waiting for a friend to come pick you up so you can go somewhere else. You don’t hate him. You just ignore him. THAT is this song. Ignorable. Slightly pathetic.

    Holy Crap, I think I’ve just been possessed by the spirit of Simon Cowell. . .

  19. jim jos Says:

    Suspicion is a good one. I especially like the live version for the video. I do think its a very dark song, but it is pretty seducing.

    You’re so naked, baby.

  20. adam Says:

    REM meets Roxy Music.. very sexy song.. scandalous. this one really worked. soundtrack to some wild times. good stuff.

  21. Urban Runoff Says:

    I like this song, but it feels, like a long of the songs on Up, like it could’ve been so much more. A little tighter arrangement, maybe a little faster tempo and shorter running time might have made this great.

  22. Jared Says:

    This, to me, is the best song to come from the “Up” sound. It’s one of my all time favorites, and it’s s staple on any REM mix that I make for friends. It really demonstrates one of the many far-reaching places that this band can take themselves.

    This song needs to be listened to in a dim or candle-lit atmosphere.

  23. milesy Says:

    Paul A, what’s going on today? I’ve just come from Wanderlust, and it’s good to see you’re sharing your vitriol around equally:-)

  24. milesy Says:

    It’s been pointed out to me before that this is a key song on Up, great REM moment etc, but I’ve never really been able to appreciate that. The juxtaposition with Wanderlust is revealing though. While Suspicion kind of passes me by, I can’t deny it’s OK at least. Let’s just say I wish Wanderlust would pass me by.

    But I still like ATS at least as much as Up- although all the comments are making me start to wonder if there are other reasons for this, like the times andn places it represents for me.

  25. Paul Alferink Says:

    Work is Stressful, there is a lot of yelling. But look at “Shaking Through.” I hand out credit where credit is due. But sometimes, even REM gets an D or an F.

  26. milesy Says:

    True. And actually, I think having a handful of songs I don’t like makes me feel better about loving so many others- like, maybe I don’t leave all my critical faculties at the door just because it’s REM.

    OK. I do sometimes..

  27. Paul Alferink Says:

    I remember making a mixed tape for my sister once. On it, I recorded every single song on “Green” (I had just gone back and bought the CD a few months before.) I explained in the notes I use to make with mixed tapes, “I was only going to include a few songs off Green,” But I couldn’t think of one good reason to leave this one off and include that one. Even the weaker songs are pretty good. So she got a mixture of Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Cure, etc. And REM Green, Start to finish. I couldn’t do that with many others groups, but REM, I think I could make a pretty good case that there are an album or two that are that strong, start to finish.

  28. zozoe Says:

    I got totally hypnotized by suspicion when i first heard it, i had to play it over and over, it was like a drug hit or being submerged in something exquisite & moist. It was possibly the most erotic thing i had encountered sonic-ly.

  29. ScottMalobisky Says:

    exquisite and moist as the slit-warm mercy exchange

  30. Ignis Sol Says:

    I love “Suspicion.” It is a well-written, devious tune.

  31. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Suspicion is among my very favorites from UP, although it was a poor choice as a single. I actually afree with Krug that something more dark and sinishter is going on here and although the rapist connection never entered my head, I agree (at least in tone). There is a lot going on musically in this song very subtely and this is one of a couple along with Airportman, Saturn Return, etc. that really show that REM was listening to Radiohead a lot circa OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, etc. For me, this is one of the emotional centerpieces of UP.

  32. Benjamin Says:

    I relate to this song. I think most people can, to an extent. Who hasn’t let their imagination flourish, and become suspicious and worried amidst infatuation? The song is vivid and entrancing. Probably my second favorite from the album.

  33. profligateprofiterole Says:

    We can’t go on together with suspicious minds (suspicious minds) and Elvis has just left the builing

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