Disappear

March 10, 2008

Unfortunately for the character in “Disappear,” all of his epiphanies have come too far after the point when they would have been useful, and he’s stuck looking backwards, trying to figure out just where he went wrong. That said, the character is not awash in a sea of self-pity — if anything, he is too busy admiring his reflection upon the surface to dive into his sadness.  The song comes close to falling into the Michael Stipe pep talk category, but ultimately, its advice rings hollow. “The only thing worth looking for is what you find inside” rings out, but if it has any truth, it has been co-opted and corrupted by the singer’s apparent narcissism and nihilism.  It’s hard to feel bad for the guy — he’s  made himself into an emotional apparition, and if we take him at his word, it’s exactly what he wishes to be.

27 Responses to “Disappear”

  1. Oweihops Says:

    I really enjoy this song. As much as Reveal and ATS make me wince, “Disappear” I find to be hugely underrated. Listening to it after Accelerate, I hope they decide to start playing it live. It sounds great as it is, but it would have really benefited from the more clean and precise, forceful production.

  2. Kirsten Says:

    Great song. I love the stop/start way in which it is sung. Cool.

  3. Mr Cup Says:

    I always love anything underpinned by the theme of erasure.
    Except the band.

  4. Paul Alferink Says:

    I don’t really skip songs on REM albums, but I really tune this one out when it comes on. Nothing REMarkable about it.

  5. Meriste Says:

    This song make me think of windy desert sands, especially with the mention of those Israeli cities…

  6. Rob Says:

    For me this is one of the highlights of Reveal, especially Michael’s Dylan like singing

  7. milesy Says:

    Look, OK, it is REM, so it’s not going to be terrible. But, hey, it’s not great either. Just kinda boring really, I want to press skip after about a minute.
    Reveal in microcosm.

  8. 2d Says:

    i love this song, it’s my favourite song from “reveal”.

    has a very epic quality to it, powerful and dangerous, much like a sandstorm (as Meriste also mentioned) gathering its strength from the scorching heat of the sahara and, just like a deconstructed behemoth, moving its billions of particles with rampaging fury. it also has this dramatic mirage quality to it when i think about it.

    fantastic. and the lyrics are just fantastic.

    “the crushing force of memory erasing all i’ve been. the vanishing point appears”

  9. Flor Says:

    Probably my least favorite R.E.M. song, though I don’t really hate it. It used to make me feel ill (something about the music) but I can enjoy it now.

  10. clare Says:

    This is a song that I always think i’m not very keen on & would prob skip if it was allowed(!) but once it starts it kind of keeps my attention. Think the music is quite dirge-y & hard work but does have different levels to it & overall the song finally works, particularly as background to driving. Of the 2 I prefer Chorus & the Ring though.

  11. maclure Says:

    According to this month’s Q magazine MSs comments to Thom Yorke were once the inspiration behind the title and lyrics to Radiohead’s “How to Disappear completely” and in turn that Radiohead track was an inspiration for this song, apparently.

    Anyway, this is in my top 3 tracks off Reveal probably. It’s a strong tune all round – even the middle 8. I like the cello on it too, the song would have been even better if it was arranged and produced as a latter-day Talk about the Passion. More raw, acoustic and with less squiggles and beeps. But then you could say that about quite a few tracks from this period…

  12. Rich Says:

    Frankly this is the only song from Reveal I feel at all fondly about at this point.

  13. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Mixed bag here. I have to join in with the boring and blah people. Just don’t like this song at all musically. Lyrically its solid and I do enjoy the flow of the way Stipe sings it, but still find it to be a lower middle of the pack song on easily my least favorite REM album. And this one certainly suffers from the song that goes on WAY too long disease that sometimes struck the band in the past decade.

  14. Jared W Says:

    Along with “Reno”, my favorite on the album. Reveal is obviously inundated with studio tricks and lots of (literally) whistles and bells. These two songs use them very effectively, in my opinion.

    One of my favorite little REM moments happens at 3:00 in this song, when a little extra violin pops in and leads you into the last round of choruses. Something you only hear when listening closely. I really like when they drop those nuances in.

  15. narcizo Says:

    I like this song a lot; perhaps my favourite from Reveal. Love the intro.
    Actually this song reminds me a lot of someone from my past, whom I met again only recently; Matthew, your write-up brought to my mind exactly all those things I was thinking of at that time. Thanks.

  16. Alex Says:

    Just a thought, but for those Disappear/Reveal naysayers I suggest getting some good headphones that envelop your ears and picking out an undisturbed evening to listen to Reveal…this is a headphones album, and is best experienced this way.

  17. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Actually, the band almost left this off because Michael was afraid it was too similar in concept to the Radiohead song “How To Disappear Completely & Never Be Found” until Peter assured him other than the title the songs had little in common in sound or meaning. Appeased, Michael relented. I believe this exchange was from an article in SPIN but I could be wrong.

  18. Figgy Says:

    I’m not a fan of “Reveal” but when I listened to it in it’s entirety recently, I really enjoyed “Disappear” – the vocals, instruments and lyrics all work for me. Possibly my favourite song from the album… a close call between that and “I’ve Been High”.

    I think I’ll take the advice of Alex and give “Reveal” the headphone treatment the next time I dig it out. See if I enjoy it any more that way.

  19. Paul Alferink Says:

    I love Reveal, more than Up and way more than ATS. (Heck, maybe more than some of the other albums . . .) Just don’t love this song. (And Saturn Returns just pisses me off) Every other song on the album I like or or love.

  20. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Hey Paul
    Piss yourself
    Piss yourself
    Don’t get caught

    I quite dig this Yearning Blues Personifiied

    Experience itself, however, does not seem to fit the pattern. The idea of moving from appearance to reality seems to make no sense here. What is the analogue in this case to pursuing a more ojective understanding of the same phenomena by abandoning the initial subjective viewpoint toward them in favor of another that is more objective but concerns the same thing ? Certainly it appears unlikely that we will get closer to the real nature of human experience by leaving behind the particularity of our human viewpoint and striving for a description in terms accesible to beings that could not imagine what it was like to be us. If the subjective character of experience is fully comprehensible only from one point of view, then any shift to greater objectivity–that is, less attachment to a specific viewpoint —does not take us nearer to the real nature of the phenomenon: it takes us futher away from it. Thus , the vanishing point appears and and once you vanish you find yourself living in a beautiful vacuum where you can’t see it because of your pet sheep that’s all fluffy and shit and standing in your yellow other planetary light ,blocking your view, “BAAAH”, it croaks.

  21. TeenageFBI Says:

    i recall Michael talking about this song in an interview. he told about the travelling he did when writing lyrics for reveal. he ended up in a discotheque somewhere in israel. recognising Michael, someone asked him what he was doing there. he answered ‘i came to disappear’. this is how the song came along. i like both the song and the story.

  22. adam Says:

    love this much more than chorus and the ring… this song ultimately proved my favorite from reveal.. and yeah, and REM song that has anything to do with israel is pretty unique

  23. Tim Says:

    just listened to this one again,

    Much better than I remember.

    I really like most of Reveal, but I think mostly because of the memories associated with the music…2001

  24. profligateprofiterole Says:

    Teenage FBI, that’s very interesting , sounds legit , I can REALLY imagine that REALLY being the impetus behind this one. thanx.

  25. profligateprofiterole Says:

    I am the boy
    That can enjoy
    Invisibility

  26. profligateprofiterole Says:

    isn’t there a film , a sorta cult classic, Vanishing Point, from like 1961 ?

  27. Kenneth Says:

    Oh… they’re Israeli cities.

    I interpretted this song in a completely different way. I saw the protagonist having been driving down a country road in the desert (now a Middle Eastern desert) and pulled the wheel round so he’d jerked off the road at high speed into a sign or a tree or something. From the beginning of the song, he’s sitting in the car wondering if he’s going to die or not — and if he lives, he’s going to feel like he’s been given a second chance and will go on to try and fix his life, and if he dies, he’s going to confront what comes next.


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