April 8, 2008
If you take the whole of Murmur as something that takes place over the course of one long night, the spritely “We Walk” is like a brisk stroll in the waning moonlight, just before dawn. The tune sounds especially perky and innocent, but its child-like tone is tempered by a slight drowsiness, and faint, ominous booms that punctuate the track like distant thunder. (R.E.M. trivia buffs ought to know that this sound was created by manipulating the recording of balls colliding on a pool table.)
Michael Stipe’s explanation for the song’s lyrical content is somewhat intriguing. Apparently it’s based on visiting a place in Athens called the Print Shop. To get to the main room, one would have to go up a flight of stairs and through a bathroom, where occasionally there would be a person bathing with their arm leaning over the edge of the tub, recalling Jacques-Louis David’s portrait of Jean-Paul Marat, the French Revolutionary who was stabbed to death in his bath by an assassin. It’s an odd and striking image to be sure, but it’s a curious basis for a song, especially since there is so little to the lyrics aside from the repetition of this sideways allusion to a famous painting.