Another sub-genre of the new-wave music movement emerged in the early 1980s, as the advent of “college radio” or “underground” music flourished in campuses and their low-profile radio stations, along with coffee houses across America. No band represented this intellectual and subtle rock movement better than R.E.M., who came from the same town of Athens, Georgia as the B-52’s. Led by singer Michael Stipe, with Peter Buck on guitars, Michael Mills on bass and backing vocals and Bill Berry on drums, their sound advanced the jangly guitar rock of The Byrds and Tom Petty into the next generation, with a focus on elusive lyrics and serious and thoughtful music. Their debut album, “Murmur”, is rated #165 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time.
I personally think R.E.M. has better music still to come, although I do enjoy this album and look forward to following more of their evolution through this decade. The record opens with the biggest hit from this first record, “Radio Free Europe”. Upbeat and driving without being frivolous or absurd, this song sets the stage well for their entire catalog. “Pilgrimage” is another very representative track of their haunting sound, and on “Laughing”, you can really hear the way Michael Mills drives the melody on bass for the band.
My second favorite song on the album is “We Walk” on side two, which oddly opens with the exact same chords as “Here You Come Again” by Dolly Parton, before taking a different path in their happiest and warmest song on the record. Some of the remaining highlights include “Talk About The Passion”, “Perfect Circle”, and “Sitting Still”.
I was a bit slow to the party on college radio and this genre of music as a whole, and it wasn’t until my second year in college, when Jim and I moved into a house of college seniors before I really started paying attention to bands like R.E.M. However, since I took that step, I have been a faithful fan, and they are planted at the very top of my “concert regrets” list of bands I never saw in concert, but really wish I had.