Friday, 26 May 2017

The hidden world of R.E.M. #8

This series isn't all about the never-before-released tracks. Both of today's picks have been officially put out, but are either rare or not particularly well-known.

In 2008, R.E.M. released 'Accelerate'. It was a breath of fresh air. After two woeful records of mid-tempo, middle-of-the-road schmaltz, 'Accelerate' sounded like R.E.M. had found a new lease of life. A band rejuvenated, they actually sounded like they were having fun again. Its opening track Living Well Is The Best Revenge was without a doubt the band's best song in 10 years. In contrast to recent offerings, 'Accelerate' was short, but the quality was undoubtedly high.

The album's second single - the rip-roaring Man-Sized Wreath - included a version of Living Well that was renamed based on a studio discussion immediately prior in which Peter Buck poses the question "Did Jesus have a dog?" that reduces all present into hysterics. The subsequent take on the song is utterly superb - loud, fast and far more energetic than any recording by a bunch of middle-aged blokes has any right to be - and even beats the album version hands down.

R.E.M. had been issuing special fan-club only releases since 1988. Some were rubbish, some just had some standard live tracks on them, but there were quite a few that contained some real gems and surprises. The 2009 single was one of the latter. The cover of Lenny Kaye's Crazy Like A Fox was pretty decent in itself, but most notable was the line-up of the band: just a duo consisting of Mike Mills and Bill Berry. Yes, THE Bill Berry - R.E.M.'s legendary former drummer whose departure in 1996 many link to the band's subsequent decline. He and Mills sing and play everything on this track (with producer John Keane joining in the backing vox)


  1. Never heard that version of 'Crazy Like a Fox' - brilliant!

  2. I fell off the REM bandwagon pretty early on in the proceedings. Very devoted to them through the first 5 LPs or so, and got to see them at the height of their powers a couple of times -- then, dunno, just kind of turned away when the whole world loved 'Losing My Religion' and I hated it. But songs like these, recorded years and years after, remind me of how great and unique they could be and that it's probably time to get over myself.

  3. This version of Living Well (after the laughter has subsided) would easily have made the recent ICA vol 2. Superb. Wouldn't have been out of place on the hugely underrated 'Monster'.

    And that fan club song is also rather lovely. Making me think there might be merit in a Mike Mills vocals ICA....

    Once again. Thank you.