March 8, 2008
Despite all of Michael Stipe’s shyness and mumbling, if the individual tracks on both Chronic Town and Murmur had to be filed into genres like movies at a video store, many of the songs would fit comfortably in the action/adventure section. “Wolves, Lower” is a fine example: It immediately establishes a tone of mystery and suspense that eventually shifts into a rush of adrenaline, as if the protagonist has suddenly been thrown into a fight-or-flight scenario. Peter Buck’s crisp arpeggios do much of the work, but the thrills come courtesy of Bill Berry’s percussion, which keeps a jumpy, nervous pace without pushing the tone of the piece too close to that of outright panic. There’s a fine balance of paranoia and courage in “Wolves, Lower,” and a sense that the tune’s strange, vague nocturnal adventure is much more thrilling than it is terrifying.