Sunday, 11 July 2021

An R.E.M. Summer: The Imagainary 7"s - part 6

#11: An Imaginary 7" from 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' (1996)

Choosing an Imaginary single from R.E.M.'s magnum opus 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' is a daunting prospect. Only one of its three actual singles was an obvious choice, while there are around five or six tracks screaming out for release that were overlooked. Those I considered, but subsequently ruled out are: Be Mine (for reasons that will become apparent); New Test Leper (a version was put out as a b-side to Bittersweet Me) and The Wake-Up Bomb (the one everyone but the band wanted as a single, but again a version was a b-side to Electrolite).

So the two from my shortlist that remain are Leave and So Fast, So Numb. The former is the longest song in R.E.M.'s extensive catalogue, way too long for a single. But it just hits you hard, doesn't it? The fake (acoustic/harmonium) intro giving way to Bill Berry's pounding drums and that siren! It sounded like nothing the band had done before. The latter is the obvious "hit", one of the album's shortest, most melodic songs, but no less gnarly and energetic as the rest of it. It's the one I took to immediately when I first heard NAiHF and it's still right up there with my all-time R.E.M. faves.

So what's it to be? Well, even though my attepted edit of Leave was still slightly too long, I was so tempted to break my self-imposed 'max 4-minutes' rule. But I then remembered I have something lined up next month where you might hear that edit anyway, so for imaginary 7" number 11, I went for So Fast, So Numb (albeit with a very minor edit of its own).

In Europe and Japan, another odd choice for a single was made. How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us wasn't put out in the UK so we missed out on its b-sides. One of them was an exclusive version of NAiHF's love/obsession song Be Mine. Recorded live on the band's tour bus whilst travelling on Highway 35 during the Monster Tour, it has never been commercially released in the UK or US as far as I know. For the artwork, I chose a wonderful shot of a hut and old truck somewhere in South Dakota.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #11

A: So Fast, So Numb [edit]
Be Mine [Mike On Bus version]

side A: from the album 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi'
side B: from 'How The West Was Won...' single (Europe & Japan)

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

#12: An Imaginary 7" from 'Up' (1998)

It's an intriguing record is 'Up'. R.E.M.'s first since Bill Berry quit, it saw the now 3-piece band experimenting with electronics and as such, it's all over the place stylistically. It still had some fantastic songs on it, but it was about 20-odd minutes too long and contained quite a bit of filler.

Three of the four UK singles were good choices, but one or two other tracks really should have been considered over the actual fourth single, the rather dull pseudo-soul ballad Suspicion. Walk Unafraid was a huge live favourite and thus would have made for a good single right in the middle of the world tour that was taking place at the time. But if I'm being honest, the live rendition beats the pants off the studio track. It would have to be remixed to lift that chorus up to the levels it deserved and duly received when played live.

I always liked The Apologist, with its "I'm sorry" refrain perhaps a nod back to So. Central Rain. But let's face it, at the end of the day, there's only one track that makes the cut. I'm sure you won't disagree - it's just got to be the Leonard Cohen-inspired Krautrock majesty that is Hope. No R.E.M. song ever sounded like Hope before or since, which is a real shame. I've given it a trim but I don't think it loses its brilliance because of it.

A live b-side for this one as I have very little in the way of demos or outtakes from this era that hasn't been released. So you're getting a live version of Walk Unafraid so you can appreciate how good it was live. This was recorded in New York City for MTV's Uplift show. For the artwork, I rolled with the electronic feel of Hope. I know, a bit obvious...

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #12

A: Hope [edit]
B: Walk Unafraid [live]

side A: from the album 'Up'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

A brief pause to the series next week as there's a notable event that needs to be marked instead. Pop by to see what that is! The final THREE Imaginary 7"s will follow the week after.

1 comment:

  1. Great choices both. I would love to have "Leave" as a single - one of my favourite REM tracks. Loved it in "A Life Less Ordinary" too. As for "Hope" - Obviously!
    Thanks for the b-sides as well. The band (or label) could really have done with you choosing the releases.