Wanderlust

February 17, 2008

In the context of Around The Sun, an album overflowing with somewhat plodding mid-tempo numbers, the cute, jaunty “Wanderlust” may as well be a full-on rocker. It’s a perky, light-hearted tune, and its presence smack dab in the middle of the running order is crucial to providing the record with a sense of emotional and musical dynamic. That said, “Wanderlust” may be amiable, but it’s not especially memorable in terms of its structure and arrangement — though one can make the argument that it’s like a distant cousin of “We Walk” from Murmur, it mostly just sounds like something John Brion might toss off in an afternoon. Almost all of the song’s charm comes from Michael Stipe’s vocal performance, which hits upon a peculiar, manic cheeriness when the song hits its emotional peak: “I want to kiss the astronauts when they salute to me! Me! Me! Me!” It’s an inspired moment, and it elevates the song from being merely likable to something quite adorable.

28 Responses to “Wanderlust”

  1. 2d Says:

    i really like this song, but somehow it feels slightly watered-down, and the production strangles the best moment: the guitar line from the “i’m searching for a greatness / i smear it on my face” part. a missed opportunity for a great r.e.m. moment!!

    still it’s cheery and sweet. the astronauts part is indeed, adorable!!

    the guitar part is a lot like blur’s “sunday sunday”

  2. Stefano Says:

    Amazing blog. Just posted a link over on my site. Keep strewn-ing them flowers.

  3. maclure Says:

    I can’t put my finger on why this song isn’t great when it should’ve been. Performed live (when I saw them) it seemed to fall fairly flat too. I just think it was a bit REM song-writing by numbers.

  4. Mr Cup Says:

    ditto.
    Should have, could have been better.
    Remarkably simiilar to Iggy’s Passenger, though without ripped backsides.

  5. ScottMalobisky Says:

    oh yeah Man definitely see the similiarity to We Walk. I didn’t, until now. The astronauts line is so TOTALLY THE MOST CHEESY TONGUE IN CHEEK LINE IN THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL (arguably).. A slap happy way of illustrating how really unimportant pop music is as compared to serious science and serious questions.

  6. Kirsten Says:

    A little too poppy for my liking. We Walk is a much better song. They play this song at the Supermarket all of the time, that kinda says it all. My first thought when it comes to this song is “Brittish Pop”. Heaps and heaps of fun to sing along to, though!

  7. Ben Says:

    I hate this song with a passion. Hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it.

  8. Jerad Says:

    This should’ve been the first single off the album, not “Leaving New York.” It’s the poppiest thing on the album, and yeah I know that’s not always what they want to lead with, but that’s exactly what their public image needed around that time.

  9. narcizo Says:

    …this one, despite the fact that it’s one of ATS’s standout tracks, proved to me that REM were really in a mental jam while recording.
    If you listen to Minus 5 “Popsycle Shoppe” (from “The lonesome death of Buck McCoy” lp) you ‘ll understand what I ‘m talking about.

  10. gluefoot Says:

    unfortunately this sounds like r.e.m. doing blur’s ‘country house’ or something.. an endearing enough melody but woefully produced limp stomping nonsense musically and a bland sentiment lyrically.. unfortunately, and i hate to say this, it sounds like the work of a middle-aged band bereft of inspiration..

  11. Rob Says:

    Apart from the “kiss the astronauts” section this is, in my humble opinion, the weakest track REM have put on an album. It might have made a servicable b-side but I’ve never understood why it was picked for release as a single.

  12. Andy T. Says:

    Even Stipe sings “I want it to be brilliant, I want it to be great.” While not a great song, I don’t dislike this one. I wish it had a bit more of that quirky lead electric guitar line though.

  13. Clare Says:

    Not keen on this one, sounds like it belongs on Sesame Street. Think this could be 1st time I’ve been negative…

  14. Paul Alferink Says:

    I don’t have anything intelligent to add to any song on this album, except maybe “Leaving New York.” It’s a train wreck, so it has some moments; after all, in a train wreck, the train has to start moving first. This sounds like the most generic junk they could come up with. I mean, the tunes sounds like a paint by numbers “They Might Be Giants” B-Side, circa “Flood.” Uninspired. I think, to date, I still have only managed to listen to this albums, Start to Finish, twice. Usually, I ignore this one. I don’t hate it, like I hate “Worst Joke Ever,” but really . . . This sounds like the junk they might play underneath while introducing the band member in concert. . .

  15. jim jos Says:

    my least favorite song that R.E.M. has ever made.

  16. milesy Says:

    Rob, jimjos, I’m with you- and, as I may have said before(!), I like ATS. But Wanderlust is close to awful, easily the low point of a good album IMO.

    A distant cousin of We Walk? Very distant, in the sense of one cousin wanting to make it completely clear that, despite some similar genetic material, they have gone in different directions making it rather embarrassing for the older to be reminded he’s related to the younger…

    Not good.

  17. ScottMalobisky Says:

    but not as distant as me and Hugo Chavez

  18. Figgy Says:

    Some days I think I might like this song if it was written by some other band, one that I didn’t hang such high expectations on. Is that an odd thing to say? I mean, if this was a song released by some bog-standard rock/pop band that happened to get played on the radio during my drive home from work, I imagine I’d quite enjoy it. The problem is, I expect more from REM.

  19. Ignis Sol Says:

    Gotta love the “astronaut” line. I wrote a song in 2003 called My Favorite Astronaut about a birthday adventure a good friend and I took to the Pacific Ocean. Anyhow, “Wanderlust” is a fine song, but definitely not my favorite from ATS.

  20. Patrick Says:

    I also enjoy Wanderlust, despite the trashing it’s getting. It’s cheery and a little haphazard. It should have been shorter and more haphazard probably, but it gives a nice tempo lift to the album.

    What I’m finding hard to like is Supernatural Superserious. A disappointing start to an album I’m looking forward to immenseley. Does anyone else feel that it’s a little boring? It just doesn’t hold my attention.

  21. ADB Says:

    I remember hearing this on the radio when it was released as a single and being really a bit embarrassed by it – if I’d been a casual listener rather than a fan I would’ve thought ‘whatever happened to REM, they’ve totally lost it’. I mean I kinda like the astronaut line, and I love a lot of their more throwaway poppy stuff, but I think the real problem with Wanderlust is that it is the one upbeat track on ATS so it stands out a bit more and I’m left thinking ‘is this the best they could come up with’. The intro reminds me of some cheesy 80s song too and it’s driving me mad that I can’t remember which one…

  22. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    I like ATS, but this is one of my very least favorite songs on that CD. It is too poppy (and not in a good/cheesy Stand or Shiny Happy People way). It does provide a shift in tone and dynamic so I don’t mind it when I listen to the whole ATS CD, but alone it does very little for me. As for those who think that this song should have been the lead single, no way! I like Aftermath as a single better.

  23. milesy Says:

    Good call on Aftermath, BWD- that’s the track I always think of as the one that lifts the ATS dynamic in the right way at the right time- and I’ve always wondered what it might have been with a bit of speeding up and rocking out, kind of like the reverse of what they did to Rockville for REckoning…

  24. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    I love Aftermath, it satnds out to me on ATS and is the one song that could almost be on any REM album from ATS. I also love High Speed Train, so unusual and experimental and it feels so Japanese to me.

  25. iggy Says:

    It’s JON Brion, not John.


  26. How can anyone love High Speed Train?
    They have to be the worst lyrics ever written by anyone.
    Ever.

  27. Jason Says:

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I always hear Wanderlust as another protest song to go with Final Straw and I Wanted To Be Wrong. I imagine it as Michael Stipe’s riff on what might actually be going on in George W. Bush’s head. Deranged and grandiose…

  28. Melonie Says:

    I am in the minority, but I absolutely LOVE this song. Crank it up and sing it at the top o’ my lungs with the car windows rolled down. I just really relate to it. And it’s fun. And in my vocal range, which is one of the things I love about R.E.M. in general. Stipe sings in my range. Which is pretty funny, since I used to be a first soprano. Somehow with age I have gradually lowered to settle into a comfortable tenor. wtf.
    Okay, I’m rambling. I’ll stop. But I love this song.


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