(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville

February 24, 2008

When I was in high school, I had a job as a stock boy at the local supermarket. They played old-school Muzak over the P.A., i.e., mellow instrumental versions of well-known pop songs, never the actual recordings. In the time I was there, I noticed that there were a handful of R.E.M. songs in rotation: “Man On The Moon,” “Shiny Happy People,” “Everybody Hurts,” and, uh, “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville.” I probably heard the Muzak version of “Rockville” a few times before I realized what I was hearing — not that the song wasn’t recognizable in this form, but because I didn’t realize the song was well-known enough to enter the context of mid-90s supermarket Muzak. But really, why not? “Rockville” is a straight-up traditional country-rock tune, and one of the most unabashedly mainstream songs the band has ever recorded.

Much of the song’s charm — and near-total lack of weirdness — comes down to the fact that “Rockville” is more or less a Mike Mills solo composition. Michael Stipe may have filled the tune with obscure turns of phrase, but Mills’ words are simple and sincere: He’s way into a girl, but she’s leaving town, and headed off to a dull suburb in Maryland. He imagines that his life will be boring and lonely without her, and his vision of her life in Rockville is almost hilariously grim. It’s a very sweet song, but the best thing about it is that the singer’s earnest pleas are colored with a bit of selfishness. This is not to say that he is in any way a creep, but it’s pretty fair to say that this song is more about him and his desire for stability than it is about her.

A Jicksy Note: Very sloppy, but it fills my heart with joy!

126 Responses to “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”

  1. ScottMalobisky Says:

    A song for the ex-crack addicts.

    on a more personal level ,I always think of Rockville as a state of mind, a set of mental rules and mostly unwarranted boundaries, and, God-willing , I ain’t never going back.

  2. Brian Says:

    Nobody explains “Rockville” like the woman who inspired it.

    http://www.hermenaut.com/a135.shtml

    Possibly my favorite REM song of all time simply because no matter how they play it – a raucous bar song in the early 80s, countrified for the album, solo on piano by Mills on Storytellers or the current alt-countryish live version – it still holds all its original charm and power. And to think, this is one of their earliest compositions to survive.

  3. Clare Says:

    I really love this song. Was watching REM Live the other night & I can’t help but crack a smile seeing Mike Mills enjoying himself so (& Michael looking strangely like a spare part!) It wasn’t until the last 2 or 3 years (i’m ashamed to say) that I actually realised it was Mike not Michael on vocals to this one, but I think his voice lends himself to this country inspired sound perfectly. I love the sincerity of the lyrics & the simplicity yet effectiveness of the music…jangly guitars never sounded so good.

  4. ScottMalobisky Says:

    oh yes , of course , Rockville Maryland !! , I’ve been there a few times , just north of DC, when I lived in DC..How funny , I never made that connection with this song….Strange how the brain sometimes works (or doesn’t work)…..DUH.

  5. Imitation of Life Says:

    Actually, I have few thoughts about this one. It’s strange, but I just don’t find the second half of Reckoning to be anything like as good as the first half, and it tends to get somewhat ignored.

    Btw, I think that last song on Chronic Town needs doing, just to complete one of the categories.

  6. pggtips Says:

    Wonderful song, merges their music influences in such a straightforward manner, yet is full of invention also, almost creating a genre of music on its own. What a band!

  7. ScottMalobisky Says:

    kinda weird in a way but I think that I have aways read TOO MUCH into this song , like when he sings of the factory and coming home to an empty house and all , I’ve always seen that as a bit of a metaphor representing a stagnated life, as in, “Hey brothers and sisters , stay in school , get an education , try new things,grow (be a rockstar?) , or you’ll end up like the character in this song..And you dont’t really want that now , do you ?” I never realized that the song is so straightforward and literal , about a real person in a real time situation.
    My interpretation a not surprising manifestation of my affliction actually ,ie, my super paralyzing over-analytical personality usurping …….chuckle chuckle sway sway tick tick boom.

  8. ScottMalobisky Says:

    an “admonishing”
    that’s the word I was looking for

    aren’t you impressed ?
    ok I’m done now🙂

  9. ADB Says:

    Mr Mills’ finest hour. In some ways this one could’ve fitted with Matthew’s grouping together of Burning Hell, White Tornado etc as an example of REM writing a genre song, in this case straightahead country rock. Except with this one they absolutely nailed it and created something, in its own way, completely different from, and yet just as good as, anything else in their canon. As a teenager growing up in a small town (and spending many hours ‘waiting in the station for the bus’) this one connected with me so directly that I still can’t hear the intro without breaking into a nostalgic smile. And that second repetition of ‘Well I know it might sound strange but I believe you’ll be coming back before too long’ gets me every time. Finally seeing this live (Portman Road, Ipswich, the day after 7/7)was the icing on an already seriously emotional cake.

  10. Figgy Says:

    Nothing much to add here. I can’t say a bad word about ‘Rockville’, definitely a highlight of the back catalogue.

    Clare, I could be wrong but I’m convinced Stipe sings all the verses and joins in with Mike and Bill on the choruses.

    Bisky, I like the way your mind works and your entertaining comments have been one of the signature features of ‘popsongs’ to date. Keep them coming…


  11. Am i completely wrong in thinking stipe sings it on record but mills sings it live?
    x

  12. Andy Says:

    I’ve always loved how Peter Buck references Johnny Rivers’ “Poor Side of Town” in this song.

    Like ScottM, I always saw this as a cautionary tale, too.

  13. Andy Says:

    Here’s a link. The riff at the end is totally from this song:

  14. Andy Says:

    Come to think of it, “Rockville” is thematically very similar to “Poor Side of Town.”

    …okay, I’m stopping now!

  15. jim jos Says:

    on the new live cd, and on some bootlegs, its Mike. On Reckoning and I Feel Fine, etc its Micheal Stipe.
    There is a video on YouTube of Mike Mills performing this song on Regis. He messes up the words some, but I think it makes it even better.

    Speaking of links, never saw that last one. Who is that long haired hippie singing with the over the top twangy accent?

    Which brings me to my main point for this song. I really like that it is not sung “tongue and cheek” on Reckoning. It is a good straight forward alt rock song that holds an important place in the catalog. I think Stipe sang it really, really overdoing the southern accent on it on these live performances. I am sure its because it was due to being shy and he was probably not ready to sing such a straight forward love song as of yet. The Reckoning version is the perfect vocal take for me. Mills wrote a good song here, and I am glad the band gave it proper treatment on the album.

    My favorite lyric “at night I drink myself to sleep and pretend I don’t care that you’re not here with me”
    I have totally been there Mr. Mills.

  16. Macphisto Says:

    Total Mills… Total Selfishness. It’s the song we all have lived so to speak once in our lives and R.E.M put words to it. If any country singer released this it would be a number one! To me it’s one of thier great gems that does not get a lot of attention.

  17. Macphisto Says:

    I LOVE this shit!

  18. Paul Alferink Says:

    This song was originally kind of a punk song from the early days. They dusted it off for Reckoning, giving it a country feel, in part for Bertis Downs, I think, who was a country Music fan.

    This is also my favorite song when covered by another band. 10,000 maniacs cover it (B-Side to “Candy Everybody Wants” and do a nice job with it.) Also, J-Church covers it on “Surprise your Pig” an REM tribute album, and are only half bad doing it.

  19. Kirsten Says:

    Wow, Scott. I can’t believe that I didn’t make that sort of connection with this song ’cause now it’s been pointed out, I can really see it. I’m always thinking songs have some kind of deep meaning, just to find they are just some straight forward love song (ie country feedback).

    When my little brother was about 6 or 7, he told me that whenever he was sad, he’d sing this song and he’d feel better. That’s what this song will always mean to me.

  20. Mr Cup Says:

    Getting all nostalgic so I’m not going to say anything.
    Song rules!

  21. milesy Says:

    I love Rockville too. Especially the unusual chord progression in the build up to the chorus (‘I know it might sound strange…’), the classic harmonies through the chorus, and the twiddly bit of guitar after ‘and waste another year’. I sometimes think the verses could do with something more, instrumentation wise- I don’t have Reckoning to hand, but I’m remembering that plinky piano (which is OK) and wondering where the guitars went. Maybe my memory is faulty…

  22. Meriste Says:

    Weirdly enough, the piano parts in this song reminds me of this Filipino folk-rock group called Asin:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asin_%28band%29

    It’s an odd association, really. I don’t remember them using pianos at all.

    Anyway, everything else I have to say about this song has already been said. Love it.🙂

  23. Paul Alferink Says:

    Also, if you ever have an unrequited crush on a girl with marmalade hair who goes to school at Vanderbilt, in Nashville, TN, under no circumstances is it a good idea to tape yourself singing this song and playing the acoustic guitar, all while replacing the word “Rockville” with the word “Nashville” as a going away present. Or so I’ve heard.

  24. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Great old song, has gotten better with time in my opinion. Definately Mr. Stipe singing on Reckoning. I’ve always been a little surprised that this song has never been covered by major country radio. Few of those artists write their own music and are always looking for a hit song. Add some twang to the vocals and steel guitar and you’d have a modern country classic. Especially if a group that was a pop/rock band disguised as country (like Rascal Flatts) cut it.

    Knowing that this is pretty much a Mike Mills solo composition has always made me wonder if Mike is the mastermind behing Near Wild Heaven as well or if that was a more typical whole band project.

  25. jim jos Says:

    too funny paul. Don’t go back to Nashville, sweet.

    Can’t get the contrasting images of Blondie Stipe for Fables contrasted with the long haired Stipe of Reckoning.
    I think that Mr. Stipe should ditch the Electron Blue face paint for the next tour, that was so Around the Sun. But you got to have a look. I like the idea of Matthew’s as the new album sounds kind of like an older punks sound. Mr. Stipe should perhaps take on the persona of the last man standing at the end of the world. I am thinking perhaps military outfit, kind of like John Lennon circa 1971, Imagine. Something tougher, more militant.

  26. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Walls And Bridges. What a record !! Such emotional extremes nailed , love ‘Scared’

  27. maclure Says:

    There was a couple of pictures of Michael prior to the Dublin gigs with fuzzy hair (at least in places!). With his glasses on and trench coat he looked like a vagabond. I sooooo wanted him to keep that look for the rehersals – I thought it would say “old REM is back” and “This is not a show” perfectly. But, he shaved it shiny again. I know he may not have a choice, but the bald thing is so 1994.

    Rockville: Pretty tune. Strangely, for a while I took “Rockville” to mean the town where people “rock”. Don`t go back to rockville and waste another year I took as meaning, now is the time to leave rock’n’roll excess behind and get on with living your life properly. There’s a proper Christian white-boy interpretation for you…

  28. Rob Says:

    “At night I drink myself to sleep and pretend I don’t care that you’re not here with me”, my favourite line from Rockville. Who hasn’t felt like that every now and again.

  29. dumbek Says:

    Visiting Rockville nearly every day, I’d say his vision of her life in Rockville being potentially grim might not be that far off the mark.

    Great song though.🙂

  30. Ignis Sol Says:

    We have all wasted some time in our own little “Rockvilles.”

  31. pggtips Says:

    The more I think of this song it reminds me of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” sung by Glen Campbell and written by Jimmy Webb.

    “..Phoenix” is ostensibly about a guy who is fed up with his girl and walks out on her, but like everything there are two sides to all stories, and it is likely that she either chucked him, or at least is well rid of him now that he’s gone and left for Phoenix.

    His thoughts that she’ll be waiting by the phone are likely the thoughts of a man deluded by his own sense of self-worth, and Rockville is very similar in that the song only sends out how unlucky she’ll be to leave, not thinking that perhaps its actually for the best.

    Not sure if “Rockville” is an apology of sorts to the girl and that he’s now aware that he was acting in his own interests. R.E.M. have been known for being selfish in their determination to being successful and maybe this song (and the girl) are simply props to occupy their record.

  32. lenny Says:

    Great post and good comments, as usual… I think I mentioned this on another post, but for some reason, I liked Rockville better in the context of Eponymous than Reckoning, probably because that’s where I heard it first. I have a hard time making it fit then and there on the album, and I don’t know why. I do like the song a lot though — I never knew that the actual town of Rockville existed. I figured it was a state of mind, like Scott said in an early comment.

    Also, did anyone else notice that it was about 5 months between the last two Reckoning posts? And now only 2 great songs remain — I wonder which one Matthew will get to first? He’ll probably save So Central Rain for last… that will be a good one (no pressure!).

  33. Rob Says:

    Seeing as we’re all big REM fans here I was wondering if anyone else bought a tea tray on the 2005 tour. I can’t be the only proud owner of this beautiful object.

  34. Dark Bob Says:

    A classic. Lyrically full of country music cliches. I’ve always loved that hint of country music that is in alot of their songs. A fun song to sing and play on guitar.

  35. Bruno Says:

    Lot’s of good thoughts here REMers

    Missing you – much too busy dammit and right when Matt’s heading into his home stretch – They must be gooduns from here on out. How many left? Where are we?

    I guess it was the whole package for me and Michael doing his countrified vocal thing.

    Oh, something does spring to mind now. You know those guys who you just thought were a bit…well.. thick (way back when) – say in school? There was the prototypical dull dude that I remember I was a bit upset to see a few years later at an REM show in my hometown. It was in support of Life’s Rich Pageant – and I still felt that the band was a cool secret but after the show I looked over amongst the crowd and spotted this guy. ‘Hey’ I thought “What the hell’s he doing here?’ Secret’s well out!

    I also remember this weird scene in which a girl near me in the crowd had a bouquet of roses! and was trying deperately to get them to Michael up on stage. Any time someone called out to Michael during the show she felt all protective. Michael’s all whirlygig and here she was announcing to anyone near her “No, it’s Michael, be nice to him” “No, he’s beautiful”. Weird. I wonder if she ever actually delivered those flowers.

    Maybe she got together with that guy from my school!

    Like the corners of my mind…

  36. Kirsten Says:

    Guilty Rob! Not sure if I should be proud or ashamed…

  37. Ignis Sol Says:

    Bruno: Or maybe the dude gave Stipe the flowers? The girl is still waiting in the water tower without a dream.

  38. griffith Says:

    I grew up in small desert town whose name used to be “Crumbville”. It was later changed to Ridgecrest. After I left, I made the obvious substitution in the lyrics “Don’t go back to Crumbville, and waste another year”.

    Great, great song.

  39. beonetraveler Says:

    “Rockville” came to me as a bit of a surprise. I started my REM journey (in earnest) with Fables and branched out from there, although at the time I was vaguely familiar with the radio play afforded to Document and Green.

    I guess I was surprised at the band’s range, which I only later came to recognize as growth. How could the band who wrote ephemeral and hard-to-decipher gems like “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” and “Old Man Kinsey” have written something as straight-forward as “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”?

    The band’s progression became an important element of my informal education. At some point, I figured out that changes aren’t always linear. Hokey, I guess. But there it is.

  40. Bruno Says:

    Grifith: He he – ‘Don’t go back to Crumbville’. I’m guessing that ‘Crumbville’ didn’t strike the fair citizens of your old town as the perfect moniker. Although I like it a lot. I’m not sure if Ridgecrest has quite as much zip.

    bonetraveler: Yeah, pretty straightforward but of course given the REM vibe nonetheless. I think if Stipe had been left to provide lyrics/melody rather than have them supplied by Mills in this case that it would have come out a bit more obscure and cryptic.

    I like how the funky little throwaway ‘In the mood’ bit starts things off. They made a big mistake not making that the lead single if you ask me!

  41. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    My parents live in Washington state and I guess and couple of years back the voted to change the name of the state from Washington to Cascadia – obviously, it failed. Some people were tired of the confusion with Washington DC. Still, Seattle, Cascadia doesn’t sound right.

  42. Bruno Says:

    Right, that’s my old area too, BWD, but I was north of the border. Cascadia – as in Cascadian Mountains of course.

    Maybe they should have tried ‘Crumbville’.

  43. Bruno Says:

    Back when I was a kid, me and my brother used to hike the Crumbville Mountains.

  44. milesy Says:

    Crumbville. I’m loving this conversation. You cannot imagine how exotic it sounds from England.
    Although we do have Grimethorpe…

  45. Ignis Sol Says:

    yeah, and the zeal of Walla Walla, Washington would be lost, too.

  46. Bruno Says:

    Milesy, I’m in England too. Don’t try to pretend names aren’t colorful here or I’ll straighten you out. Coming from Canada this country has no end to great names.

    I guess it’s a case of familiarity but all the Foxtrot, Hotspur, Ramsbutt etc (he he) is very unusual to us North Americans. OK so I can’t come up with a good one off the top of my head but lot’s of names here make me scratch my head in a great way.

    Although there are some admittedly strange place names back in Canada. In my province back there (the country is broken into provinces) there is a city called ‘Spillamachine’ (sp?). Now that’s weird. And you’ll never find a ‘Kicking Horse Pass’ in England. Or on sencond thoughts that might fit in really well.

  47. Mr Cup Says:

    I rafted down The Kicking Horse.

    When I left my first ever job in my lil country town I used to sing “Don’t go back to The Mill”.

  48. Bruno Says:

    Me and my uncle roped horses on Kicking Horse, camped out on the Crumbville range and spent the summers in the Grimethorpe highlands.

  49. Bruno Says:

    Somehow I’m thinking Brokeback Mountain now

  50. Andy T. Says:

    I come from another post-industrial town with a similar name – Rockford (Illinois) – also a town that I’m glad is no longer my home and not one I’d like to go back to either.

    As for the song Rockville – one comment, of the original recorded version, I like the inital Reckoning version best – with that snippet of funky noodling instrumental preceding it. Greatest Hits versions don’t have it and the song feels somewhat naked without that intro – it starts too abruptly.

  51. milesy Says:

    Steady, Bruno, there’s some great English names, I know. But none that conjure up that kind of Wild West, swinging saloon bar door, one horse town feel that Crumbville has. Or maybe it’s a kind of mythical middle America sense that seems so alien from the UK, like I always used to feel as those huge police cars splashed through the rain in the opening credits to Hill Street Blues. I’m not saying Crumbville is necessarily like any of these romantic notions- just that it sounds kind of evocative from where I’m sitting (still)…

  52. Bruno Says:

    Sorry milesy, no disrespect intended. I really did mean that there are some great names in the UK. Just a little overzealous though.

    I do know what you mean though. Many American names really do conjure up that sense of… wild west americana, if you like. Wide open spaces, big sky, the kind of towns you might find traveling across that somewhat romantic notion of America. It is a bit of a dream of the past I suppose. A name like Crumbville does bring those kind of images to mind.

  53. ScottMalobisky Says:

    people get crushed like biscuit crumbs
    with your fingers you can touch me

  54. Rob Says:

    Be proud of your tray, Kristen. I will serve my guests muffins on nothing else.

  55. ScottMalobisky Says:

    girl ,he thought he was a man
    but he was a muffin
    he cried in the middle of the night
    cuz he didn’t know nuthin
    girl , he thought he was a man
    but he really was a puffin
    he cried in the middle of the night
    cuz he didn’t know nuthin

  56. Kirsten Says:

    Rob, If I was to ever use it (which I haven’t) I could serve warm drinks in my unused REM Thermo-flask on it, then cuddle up under my REM fleecy blanket – also unused. The problem is, I buy these things then consider them “too good” to ever use! As for my New Adventures In Hi-Fi Viewmaster – who knows what I was thinking. 🙂

    Andy T – The reason (I presume) that “In the mood” doesn’t show up at the start of the song on other CDs is that on the Reckoning CD it is on the end of Camera, not the start of Rockville.

  57. ScottMalobisky Says:

    song on In Rainbows called Reckoner

  58. Rob Says:

    Fleece blankets?!? Thermos flasks?!? Viewfinders?!? Why am I only hearing about these things now? Kristen, you have opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities…

  59. Ignis Sol Says:

    R.E.M. Ocean Machines
    R.E.M. Document Folders
    R.E.M. I’ll Take the Rain Umbrellas
    R.E.M. Eyeliner

  60. Kirsten Says:

    I’ll take 1 of each!!

  61. Mr Cup Says:

    I’m sensing an opportunity for an REM ouija board.

  62. Kirsten Says:

    OH! What about a board game??
    You could travel around the US in a little van doing shows and getting money.

    Mike gets laid at watertower – go forward one space
    Peter gets devorced – go back one space
    Bill collapses on stage – go back three spaces
    Michael gets a new haircut – go forward two spaces

  63. Mr Cup Says:

    Community Chest: REM tour Australia in support of new album. Collect $200.

  64. Kirsten Says:

    Disease outbreak in Australia. Band trapped down under indefinately. You (and I)Win!!

  65. 2d Says:

    yoghurt attack: go directly to jail, do not pass g(e)o(rgia), do not collect 1 new album.

  66. Mr Cup Says:

    everybody yoghurts, collect $10 from every player

  67. milesy Says:

    I like the Monopoly variation. Each coloured property is an album (only room for 8!); 2 or three songs on each album. I was going to nominate Green for the dark blues, but that’s too confusing, so Green for the greens, and Murmur for the dark blues. Radio Free Europe for Mayfair? (sorry, London version, I don;t know what the original US version has).

    Fables for the brown set coz its dense and murky…

    OK, now we can argue again while we wait for MP to do another song… I’m waiting for the flak!

  68. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    So, I was thinking about a little thought game here, if you ha dto choose two REM albums (excluding In Time, Eponymous, etc.) to NEVER listen to again, what would they be? For me, I’d have to give up “Reveal” and “Reckoning”.

  69. 2d Says:

    the first is easy. “around the sun” (though half the songs are good and a few are great)

    the second?… more difficult but i’d say “reveal” (was between this one and “out of time” but the latter has some stronger songs, even if i really love the first half of “reveal”).

  70. milesy Says:

    Reveal.
    But what else?
    Has to be Up I think.

  71. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Wow! Out Of Time? I would take Out Of Time just for Losing My Religion and Country Feedback, even if the rest was Llamas bleating to a techno beat. Luckily, its not, I would miss Low, Me In Honey, Belong, Half A World Away, and Radio Song a ton too. And I know Radio Song is cheesy and dated but I still love it. Different strokes for different folks though, and of course, you kept it, you just almost left it.

  72. Ignis Sol Says:

    Two albums: Monster and Around the Sun, for sure. I would sing I Don’t Sleep I Dream and I Wanted to Be Wrong to myself, which isn’t difficult because I know them by heart.

  73. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Man, I already knew this but there is some real loathing fot ATS, I still think Reveal is a much weaker record. I sometimes wonder if they had been released in opposite order, ATS first and then Reveal, if people may prefer ATS and think that Reveal is more of a misstep. I only say this because soncially they seem so close to me, its only the tone – summer versus winter – that really is very different.

  74. Ignis Sol Says:

    I like Reveal because, like most music, I associate it with 2001 a special time for me. ATS came out in 2004, a not so special time for me. So, it is personal.🙂
    And if they were to be released in opposite order – perhaps. I am sure ATS’s songs could be mined for emotional associations.

    I do love The Lifting, I’ve Been High, Saturn Returns, Beat a Drum and Imitation of Life more than my favorites from ATS (I Wanted to Be Wrong, High Speed Train).

  75. Mr Cup Says:

    So why is it these things that we always turn to ‘worst of’ lists?

    Simply because it’s easier than listing the good stuff?

  76. Ignis Sol Says:

    Mr Cup – umm…..because we hate ourselves and we wanna die?

    oops sorry, thought this was a The Smiths blog!

    or Ryan Adams.

    i’m joking, i’m joking

  77. jim jos Says:

    …or nirvana.

    I guess the two albums that I would have to do without would be Reveal and Around the Sun. I hate to be so cliched, but there it is. For me, Reveal has five songs that I really like, ATS has two or three.

    BWD I couldn’t live without Reckoning if but for Harborcoat alone! Monopoly R.E.M. would be sweet. Go to community chest pick up a card “Jefferson, I think we’re lost, go back three places!”

  78. 2d Says:

    BWD,
    for me only “around the sun” is really not up to par with the rest, because of the production and some really bad songwriting on some songs (lyrics, vocals, melody) and i thank god they left off “magnetic north”. i still love half the album (“the ascent of man”, “the outsiders”, “wanderlust”!!!, “high speed train”, “boy in the well”, “i wanted to be wrong”) so it’s not like i don’t appreciate it. but it has lowest good/bad song ratio in their catalogue for me.

    the rest of the albums i really love in their own way,
    “out of time” has mostly strong songs but some that i can do without if “needed” and sometimes it gets too syrupy overall for me. for “reveal” it’s more obvious, as here they are mostly grouped on the second half so it’s more like i lose interest after “saturn return” than the songs are bad, that’s why it wins… in losing.

    so for me it’s never a question of “worst” (which arguably implies the last on the list are bad), mr cup, more a question of “least loved”.

  79. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Oh I swear that I don’t have a gun
    No I don’t have a gun
    No I don’t have a gun__KC

    maybe Kirsten is right
    maybe it was murder

  80. Kirsten Says:

    Wow, this is turning into HSP/These Days.

    And he was murdered. Ask MS – he knows more than he’s letting on….. (but no, he didn’t do it!)

    As for the game – could be named “Little America” or “Around The Sun”.

    If I HAD to do without – ATS and Green. But it would break my heart.

  81. ScottMalobisky Says:

    did a thing on ESPN , Brett Favre “then and now”, he retired today……then is 1992 when he started his career……..Favorite Song :then –End OF The Road
    : now –Low didn’t say which Low , which was a real oversight on their part, surely they didn’t mean REM’s Low ??:)

    I would think not although Brett is a southern boy.

  82. ScottMalobisky Says:

    GREEN ????????!!!!!!
    you’re shitting me

  83. Mr Cup Says:

    See?
    Now who wanted to learn that?

    No one wins.

  84. clare Says:

    I’m gonna committ an even bigger sin….

    Document & Out of Time

    I thought about this all night!! Losing my religion I adore but I have it lodged firmly in my brain forever till I die (& then some), same for End of the World/ One I Love & Country Feedback….

    sorry folks, Mr Cup is right…..this isn’t big or clever!!

  85. Mr Cup Says:

    EVERYONE TO THE SWINGS – I’M GONNA EXPLODE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  86. Rob Says:

    How about if you could only listen to two REM albums for the rest of yourtime here on earth? Making Accelerate exempt for the time being, of course. I’d pick New Adventures In Hi-Fi hands down, but would have to rely on the toss of a coin to determine whether Automatic For The People or Murmur make the cut.

  87. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Rob, I’m with you, if I could only listen to two it would be AFTP and Hi-Fi. I was tempted to go with Document but I simply like the other two better.

  88. clare Says:

    Safer argument Rob!….but none less difficult.

    My first reaction would be to 2nd New Adventures, but then struggle to choose between Reckoning, Green, Automatic & Up

    …not very good at this game am I?! Enough of the cruel decisions now please.

  89. Ignis Sol Says:

    There is a dude in Seattle who is convinced Kurt WAS murdered and he has been a gadfly in our community. He even ran for mayor. I will drive by Kurt’s old house and take a pic and post it on my myspace so you can study the evidence.

  90. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    I was a freshman in high school the yeat that Nirvana and Pearl Jam broke and am very much a child of the Grunge era. I still love Pearl Jam, but often wonder what Nirvana would have sounded like ten years in or fifteen years in, assuming they made it that long. I’m just not sure how elastic their sound was. Then again, many people wondered the same about REM and they have found plenty of room for creativity within the limits of their sound. I am always a little sad too because Kurt said he wanted Nirvana’s next record to sound like AFTP, and I always wonder what that would have meant for Nirvana, what a Nirvana AFTP would have sounded like. If they really would or even could have pursued that direction. The one post In Utero song Nirvana recorded, “You Know You’re Right”, to my mind did not make me think of AFTP much, although certainly the song selection for Unplugged hinted they move in a darker and more slow and acoustic direction (but, then again, it was unplugged). Enough of my ruminations.

  91. milesy Says:

    What is going on here? Kirsten, Green??? [speechless]

    [regains ability to speak] I think you’re on to something ignis with the idea that you like Reveal more than ATS because of 2001 associations. I guess it’s the same for me but the other way around– whatever weaknesses ATS may have, it will always remind me of a place where it was on rotate on my car stereo, and it’s a place I miss.

    Wrong attitude Mr Cup. We need to chill and enjoy this. The swings are great, letting off steam is healthy and we need to spend more time there!

  92. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Actually, if I had to ditch a 3rd album after Reveal and Reckoning, Green would be my 3rd to go. I love many of the songs, but there are several that are middle of the road REM for me, and it is the only REM album where I feel the production is somewhat dated sounding.

  93. Bruno Says:

    BWD – given Kurt’s natural songwriting ability, appreciation of all things pop (good pop), harmony/melody skills, the sky was the limit. It didn’t come from the same sort of organic approach that REM started with but I think it could have gone off into great places. Had he not gotten messed up and off track, he had it in him, if you ask me, to take the whole thing to another place, even in an AFTP sense. Maybe. I can picture a classic Kurt fronted acoustic/electric combo; not necessarily great musicianship but thats ok. It’s not a stretch, judging by what he came up with in a short amount of time, that he could have produced some truly timeless music.

  94. Kirsten Says:

    Sorry guys, feel the need now to defend my decision. It WAS a hard choice, but at the end of the day, Green is probably the album I listen to least (even less than ATS). There are (in my opinion) less songs (but not no songs) that I can do without on Green than there are on any other album. It was either Green or Reckoning and I decided that Green is less brilliance and more pop. Still I’d miss a few songs like WLP and 11th. I can still do the Stand dance without the music though, right?

    Maybe I’ll do better on the 2 keepers – Murmur & Monster. Tough decision, but there it is.

    Oh no I’ve said too much…..

  95. Mr Cup Says:

    OK. Consider me vented.

    ISomething that has been on my mind lately, with all the interviews for the new album – what would ATS sound like if they redid it now that they are talking to one another again?

  96. ScottMalobisky Says:

    ATS sounds really really extra extra good when one is “at the end of one’s tether” , stressed , tired , and on an emotional high-wire . Always hits me surprisingly hard when I haven’t listened to it for awhile ….in a certain frame of mind ..like just now……..

  97. Paul Alferink Says:

    ATS and Up. Not even a second thought.

    If I kept only too, LRP and Green.

  98. Kirsten Says:

    Just picked up my copy of Supernatural Superserious! Finally, I can hear what you have all been raving about.

    Poor ATS, I feel it’s getting too much of a bad rap. I would miss not hearing at least half of that album. The only reason I would have gotten rid of it is ’cause of the quality of the other half compared to the quality of the songs I don’t like as much on the other CDs.

    I haven’t said enough.

  99. ScottMalobisky Says:

    ain’t much to rave about, Kirsten
    but it’s alright, SNSS

  100. Mr Cup Says:

    Yeah – so two weeks ago!

  101. Kirsten Says:

    Counting down the hours…..

  102. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    I wonder why REM never had any more records produced by Mitch Easter and Don Dixon. They’re still out there producing albums, its interesting that the band has never gone back to them.

  103. Rob Says:

    Y’know, if we’re keeping two albums can I cheat and take the 2cd I Feel Fine compilation? While not the same as listening to all the IRS albums all the way through it does contain many of my favourite songs from that period. And on the subject of dodgy merchandise, anyone for Around The Sunscreen? Or a Semiautomatic For The People? Course the band would have to change their stance on handgun control before the marketed the latter…

  104. milesy Says:

    Or how about a souvenir Moral Kiosk? Milesy, England, says, ‘I don’t know where I’d be without my moral kiosk. When life is confusing or I’m feeling down, I just step inside and things seem so much more attractive.’

  105. clare Says:

    Everyone seen the new cover of Q magazine? Think we can say the blue streak across the head is out this season….& dunking our heads into a bucket of metalic gold paint definitely in!! My first reaction was that he looked like a gold version of the orange “you’ve been Tangoed” bloke from the advert years ago!!

    Hmmm…. the jury’s out on this one Michael….think I really preferred the Geography teacher fluff & stubble jsut before Dublin.

  106. Rob Says:

    Clare, I’ve seen that picture. How young does Mike Mills look? About ten or fifteen years younger than his actual age. And in the picture thats with the Uncut review I think he might be wearing a pendant I sold him when he came into the shop I work in last summer. Nice guy, too.
    PS Sorry about my atrocious grammer.

  107. clare Says:

    Yes there is a fair bit of “air-brushing” going on with the guys in the pics I think!!

    Do you live in Athens Rob? (having just asked that though i’m sure the band do go in shops other than in Athens or LA – doh!!!)

  108. Dark Bob Says:

    Fables and Murmur. For sure.

  109. Rob Says:

    No, Dublin. It was a few days after the Olympia shows.

  110. David Says:

    Hey Matt any chance you can provide a link to Pavement doing Killing Moon/Green Grow The Rushes that you used to have up on Fluxblog?

  111. Kirsten Says:

    I thought the gold was kinda creepy.

  112. Kirsten Says:

    Merchandise idea:

    Little figurines for the girls
    Action figures for the boys
    And life-size sex dolls for Ignis!

  113. Mr Cup Says:

    Re: the new gold look:

    Was it timed for The Oscars?????? A fake tan gone real bad?????
    Rub on bling?????

  114. Rob Says:

    Hey Kirsten. I’ve just realised I’ve been calling you Kristen this whole time. Sorry about that.

  115. ScottMalobisky Says:

    semi-automatic for the people , YEAH !!
    for the right people
    properly licensed
    we can take out the next mass murdering clown
    we can do more than just quiver and hide
    we can do more than just lay down and die

    these cowardly bastards would think twice then

  116. Imitation of Life Says:

    The taking out/leaving 2 albums thing I can’t really do, I’d take forever over it.

    As for dubious merchandising and spin offs, I suggest a strip club called “Reveal”…

    OK, too dubious.

  117. Ben Says:

    Are picking two albums to never listen to again? Fine, since I haven’t posted here in a while…

    Around the Sun (obviously) and Murmur. Blasphemy I know, and I totally recognize it’s massive influence on the genre, but I’ve just never really connected with it. Last week I would’ve said Reveal, but then last week at work I listened to it in it’s entirety for the first time in a couple years and was pretty surprised at how well it holds up. There are really one-and-a-half throwaway songs in that album, and it’s also a great one to listen to while waiting to spring to arrive.

  118. Bruno Says:

    I can’t remove Reckoning from the list. No way.

    It’s when they started to make noise but Peter still hadn’t yet discovered the power chord approach. He had lots of energy but still kept the finger pick and open string style, mixing the arpeggios and ringing ricky with some power but none of the (more) straightforward rock approach that was to follow. I still love the sound of the intro to Pretty Persuasion.

    The whole album had a rawer, bigger approach than what came before but still was part of the early era. It sounded big: noisier drums, more powerful bass, jangling guitars. It just sounded to me like the whole band was saying ‘Let’s go for it’ and still in a very cool early REM way – the first time they announced themselves as a powerful unit. And Michael wailing away doing his thing. Of course there were quieter songs but it was the upbeat stuff that really captured the Reckoning period for me.

    OK so shut me up. I guess a lot of it is the fact that this was one of the first albums I really latched onto.

  119. ryan Says:

    A bit late to the table, but I’ll chime in with my bottom 2 – the first one’s super-easy – ATS. The second one is a tough call, but based on regular listens alone, I’d have to go with either Reckoning or Fables. Funnily, I used to cite the latter as my favourite of theirs, but these days, I just don’t listen to it all that much. Anyway, even though So Central Rain is one of my all-time favourite songs let’s go with Reckoning to keep it topical. ; )

    As for top 2, probably Life’s Rich Pageant and Out Of Time. OOT being my “gateway” album and LRP being the record that truly had my head spinning… even though I wasn’t a fan at the time (although I distinctly remember hearing Fall On Me on the radio and my kid ears enjoying it), it seems in hindsight like that was the album where they truly hit their stride and really started to sound, look and feel like a bona fide (rock) band! Not to mention the fact that I actually wore out that tape, which is something that I’d never, ever done in my life before or after…

  120. ScottMalobisky Says:

    dubious yes but not lugubrious

  121. pggtips Says:

    Two albums to ditch, very easy for me, Monster and Around the Sun.

    Both albums have songs that have no impact on me. On Monster – its the final three songs and ATS its the whole abum excl Leaving New York.

    R.E.M. songs for me must at least have an impact, even if the song itself is poor, that to me is the essence of punk. A punk band who can’t get their message across is a poor punk band.

    When R.E.M. are at their best is when they have many things to say that they can cram in, in a pop song (and say it with both passion and clarity), for this reason AFTP stands out for its songwriting and the fact that they were able to talk about huge personal issues (e.g. the band effectively separating into 4 single entities) by using metaphor and as not being overly literal as they have been lately.

    The second to keep is so much more difficult that the answer would change depending on when I most recently listened to a particular album, at the moment it would be a toss between Murmur and Lifes Rich Pageant, but that could be totally different in 10 minutes time.

  122. avocado Says:

    Can you provide a link to a good rock & roll version of this song online here? All I can find on youtube is country crap.

    Nice post, BTW!

  123. Paul Alferink Says:

    Best Lyric:

    At night I drink my self to sleep
    and pretend I don’t care
    that you’re not here with me

  124. Kenda Says:

    Beautiful song and adorable lyrics! Mike, is this song about anyone or anything that really happened? I live in Rockville, Maryland and when I found out this is the town you ment, I flipped. Best album and song ever from REM.


  125. […] a decided focus on Reckoning and its tracklisting. Though I knew “So. Central Rain” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” at the time because I had a dubbed copy of Eponymous, some of the titles were warped by my […]


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