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I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Fables of the Reconstruction

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So, I spent the whole last post in this series (Reckoning) talking about how the record is so much more upbeat and when I read some old reviews of that album and they kept talking about how it deals with darker topics than Murmur. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To keep consistent in quality during these posts, I now want to start by honouring an important feature of early the early IRS years from REM, which disappeared with this album:

Micheal Stipes amazing hair.



Everyone who only knows REM from the 90s is completely confused now, but he used to have amazing hair, which can only be described as long flowing locks of auburn. They all had a miserable time making this album and Stipe reacted by cutting his hair off and colouring it blonde. By the next album he had coloured it pinkish red and then slowly went back to his natural colour, he grew it long again for a hot minute and when the 90's came around cut it off and then shaved it off, because he was going bald. RIP beautiful hair, you are remembered at least by me.

But lets talk about the album!

Fables of the Reconstruction
The reviews, I smartly decided to read beforehand this time, tell me this is a concept album, about the idea of the American South. To me, it is the most interesting of the IRS records, it is the weirdest and has a lot of experiments sound wise. It starts with the electric guitar riffs of Feeling Gravity's pull, moves on to the more faster paced folky single Driver 8 and ends with the melodic off-beat Wendell Gee. It has a string arrangement in Feeling Gravity's pull, a harmonica in Driver 8, a brass section in Can't get there from here (which I did not even notice at first, it is fits so well into the song) and a beautiful banjo part in Wendell Gee.

Beautiful is a good descriptor for this album, it is full of beautiful melodies (Maps and Legends, Green Grow the Rushes and the aforementioned Wendell Gee), I have a hard time concentrating and writing something coherent, because I keep stopping just to close my eyes and soak in the music. This album is often listed as a favourite by fans of the IRS era, me included (REM members usually list Murmur). It combines all the best things from Murmur and Reckoning, while experimenting with the sounds from these albums. The lyrics tell stories, strange dreamlike stories, but understandable enough for critics to determine a theme and this is the album where they started to mix the vocals into the foreground (something the producer, Joe Boyd convinced Stipe to do).
REM almost split during the making of the album, they had a miserable time, being stuck in rainy England, burned out from touring and frustrated with their record company (IRS), while their record company was frustrated with them for refusing to be less weird. Maybe beautiful art does require the artist to suffer, I'm glad they stuck to their guns considering being weird.

Shout outs:

  • Feeling Gravity's pull is one one of my favourite songs, not just one of my favourite REM songs, but simply one of my favourite songs. I love Buck's sharp electric lead guitar, a departure from his usual melodic guitar style. I love the break, where the song dissolves from the sharp electric sound into Stipe and Mills harmonizing. I love how the short string arrangement increases the drama of the song.

  • Green Grow the Rushes is the most beautiful REM song. I actually went to find the different versions (original album version, remastered and demo version) and played around with levels to try and here the different parts. It is basically 3 or 4 different melodies (bass, guitar, 2 vocals), harmonizing or running counterpoint to each other. It is also the first explicitly political lyrics from Stipe (about migrant labour), something that will become more frequent and reach critical mass with Green.

  • Peter Buck did not like Wendell Gee he only agreed for it to be on the album after they added the banjo part and is probably the reason why they seldom play it live. Why? No idea. It doesn't only have Mills' backing vocals, but also Berry harmonizing in the background. Berry does not get enough credit, most of the time people only comment on his drumming, but he is also a really good songwriter (Perfect Circle, Everybody Hurts, Leave) and a good singer. Every time Stipe, Mills and him harmonize, magic happens.


  • Closing thoughts: Is it an album every music collection needs? Yes, because then you can tell people that this is your favourite REM album and that they went downhill after, which is the music snob thing to do. Otherwise, yes, if you are interested in early REM and like beautiful music. You can also watch the Rockpalast concert from 2nd October 1985 (it's on youtube) for the IRS years experience (they were so young). This album and Lifes Rich Pageant are my favourite from the IRS years. Lifes Rich Pageant is up next and with it we can start playing the game: is this the album REM sold-out with?



    I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Reckoning

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    I do not own this album. I listened to it (and any other album I did not own) on Youtube. This is how I found out that if you listen to any REM related playlist on Youtube, it will always play Bang and Blame from Monster when the playlist is over. I do not know why, it is far from one of their most successful singles. One of the great mysteries of the Youtube algorithm.

    Reckoning
    It is a continuation and a step forward from the sound of Murmur. IRS years REM developed their sound more organically, each record builds on the sound of the last, there is no Automatic for the People / Monster jump here. You still have the arpeggios (I love them), the melodic base lines (love them, too), mumbled lyrics mixed into the background, which make no sense (love them most of all) and Bill Berry's drumming, I still cannot comment on.

    What is different?

    The whole album sounds more confident, It is more straight forward rock and less post punk, compared to Murmur and much more upbeat. Some parts (Don't go back to Rockville) even come close to a country rock sound (I looked up old reviews to make sure I can say that without being crucified). The day I was listening to it I typed just a bit faster than usual, driven by the rhythm of this album and having tiny dance breaks in my chair. I think a lot of the good mood feeling of this album is due to the increased use of Mills' backing vocals (especially Harborcoat and Letter Never Sent), his voice is just such a ray of sunshine.

    Stipe's singing developed a lot between Murmur and Reckoning (I think he took lessons, not sure though), he seems more confident carrying a melody, holding notes and using a wider variety of techniques. In early IRS years REM were mainly a live band, and songs were recorded after they had been played live first, the limited singing techniques (sorry Stipe) on Murmur might have been what he was confident to do live then and Reckoning happened after a lot more touring. Note worthy here is Time after Time, Letter Never Sent, the chorus from So. Central Rain ("I'm sorryyy!!!"). Not that the rest of the song makes much sense, but at least we know he is sorry about it:

    Eastern to Mountain, third party call, the lines are down
    The wise man built his words upon the rocks
    But I'm not bound to follow suit
    The trees will bend, the conversation's dimmed
    Go build yourself another home, this choice isn't mine


    Please let me know how you can dim a conversation, Michael.

    Shout outs:
  • Harbourcoat is such a good mood song, love the little drum rolls throughout the song (I commented on the drumming!! yay me), the little riff as a bridge between verses and Mills' background vocals (he's the best)

  • I'm sorryyyy!!!! (had to mention it again, it is the beginning of the development of Stipe's vocal style which will evolve towards "a hundred million birds fly away, awaaayyy, awaaaaaaaayyyyyyy" in King of Birds (Document), my favourite vocal performance from Stipe of all the REM albums (goosebumps)

  • Time after time is such an interesting song, breaking up the light and rhythmic album with it's weird mystic atmosphere and is probably the best vocal part, understated but super pretty

  • (Don't go back to) Rockville is the only REM song I know of with lyrics from someone else than Stipe. Mike Mills wrote the lyrics to convince his then girlfriend to stay in Athens. They are sweet and straightforward. Ahhh, to be 20 and in love...

  • Letter Never Sent is like the future ghost of Out of Time and I'm in love with it and yes, mostly because of Mills' background vocals.


  • Closing thoughts: Is it an album every music collection needs? Still no, but if you want to listen to early REM and find Murmur and Fables of the Reconstruction too weird, this is your album. I did not own this album, but Murmur when I was a teenager (because of limited funds I could not get them all) and now I wonder if I had been a less moody teenager if I had chosen this one. I also chose Murmer over Fables of the Reconstruction, probably a good thing, because I would have turned out even weirder if I had. But this is for next time.



    I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Murmur

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    This is going to be a series, where I talk about all the things I did during the covid-19 crisis, while other people learned a new skill.

    REM has always been my favourite band. I just relate to the awkward dorkiness and complete failure at being cool. At Christmas I finally digitalised my CD collection, including my collection of REM albums. I realised 2 things:

    1. My sister (Susanne!!!) abducted my copy of Out of Time to India.
    2. There are some REM albums I have never listened to.

    So I used the time I had in the office, working on excel sheets, to listen to all the REM albums, starting with Murmer. I'm going to give a short overview over each studio album in the upcoming weeks?, months? years? and say what I think about each.

    Murmur
    I'm going to start by talking about Gardening at Night, which is not on Murmur, but on the EP Chronic Town before Murmur which is not part of this list. Gardening at Night is one of my favourite REM songs (and one of their favourite songs as well!) and to me a must have.
    This song is where they found their sound. Buck's folky - arpeggiated guitar style, Mills' melodic base guitar, Stipe and Mills harmonizing in the chorus and Bill Berry's drumming (I don't know anything about percussion, so this is the last I will say about it), it's all there. The only difference is Stipes singing, on the EP version he sings in a strange falsetto, which he fortunately dropped quickly and for this reason I prefer the live version, which is on my special edition of Murmur.
    Go and listen to it. Now you know how early IRS year REM sounds like and if you like it, you will like Murmur. It has some generally great songs (9-9, Sitting Still, Moral Kiosk, Perfect Circle). In some songs Stipe's voice is mixed into the background (his choice, he treated his voice more like one of the instruments in the early years), which adds to the illegibility of the lyrics on the album (Murmer indeed). As Stipe became more confident with being a front man they stopped doing it. Last I can remember is on Monster (Let me in) and there it is more of a stylistic choice and great.

    Special shout outs to:

  • all the great base lines and arpeggios

  • the either deep or completely nonsensical lyrics (Stipe himself says they are just random words, which has not stopped fans from analysing them), which in later years will become more topical as Stipes confidence as song writer grew

  • Stipe and Mills harmonizing in the chorus of Moral Kiosk (the way their voices harmonize is really unique to REM and a key part of their sound)

  • how freaking beautiful Prefect Circle is. It's written by Bill Berry, who will not get much attention from me in this list as I know nothing of percussion. They usually do not say who is the main song writer of a song (credits are always all of them), but after Bill Berry left the band, they have been playing this song in his memory (? he is not dead, I don't know how else to say it though)

  • 9-9, for the crazy base and guitar rhythmic section driving the song and the murmerest of murmery lyrics, where literally only "conversation fear" is understandable


  • Closing thoughts: Is it an album every music collection needs? Nahh, if you like early 80's alternative rock or are really into REM, but otherwise only Gardening at Night (live) is a must have. It's not my favourite from the IRS years, but I keep forgetting how great 9-9 is, mainly because Feeling Gravity's Pull exists, but more about that when I talk about Fables of the Reconstruction.


    So about Efling....

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    English below

    Á þeim tíma sem ég starfaði hjá Eflingu upplifði ég einelti og illa meðferð frá stjórnendum. Ég var rekin tímabundið, meðal annars fyrir að tilheyra stéttarfélagi, og fyrir að gegna hlutverki valins fulltrúa vinnufélaga. Loks var ég rekin því ég svaraði spurningum kjörinna fulltrúa Eflingar um ástæður tímabundins brottrekstrar. Þau hafa borið mig rógi og ásakað mig um að ætla að skaða stéttarfélagið með einhverju utanaðkomandi ráðabruggi, en ég var og er enn ekki tilbúin til þess að afsala mér réttindum mínum til að standast tryggðarpróf vænisjúkra stjórnenda.

    Það eru nokkur atriði sem ég vil leggja áherslu á.
    1. Núverandi staða skrifstofunnar ýtir undir misbeitingu valds. Mannauðsstjórnunin neitar að upplýsa fólk um réttindi sín, öllu samráði er hafnað og refsað er fyrir beitingu réttinda (svo sem að taka valinn fulltrúa með sér á fundi með mannauðsstjórn eða að gegna hlutverki valins fulltrúa). Það er ekkert ábyrgðarferli til staðar fyrir misbeitingu valds og stjórnin virðist ekki vilja hafa slíkt.
    2. Stjórnendur vilja halda völdum og takmarka upplýsingaflæði til kjörinna fulltrúa félagsins. Ég var rekin fyrir að svara spurningum kjörinna fulltrúa. Mér var sér í lagi sagt að halda trúnað um vissa hluti, bæði gagnvart stjórn og trúnaðarráði. Þetta er uppskrift að spillingu.
    3. Misbeiting valds og spilling byggjast á að fólk leyfi því að gerast.

    In my time working for Efling I experienced bullying and abuse from the leadership. I was put on suspension among other things for belonging to a union and for acting as the chosen representative for a coworker. I finally was fired because I answered questions from elected Efling officials about the reason for my suspension. They have slandered me and accused me of trying to harm the union with some outside agenda, however I was and still am unwilling to surrender my rights as a loyalty test to a paranoid leadership.

    There are some points I want to emphasise.
    1. The current situation in the office encourages abuses. HR refuses to inform people of their rights, every kind of consultation is denied and using one's rights (such as bringing a chosen representative to meetings with HR or acting as a chosen representatives) are punished. There is no accountability process for abuse and leadership does not want there to be one.
    2. Leadership wants to control and restrict information to the democratically elected bodies of the union. I was fired for answering questions from elected officers. I was specifically told to keep things confidential, both towards the board and the council of delegates. This is a recipe for corruption.
    3. Abuse and corruption depend on people enabling it.
    Posted on - Categories: Politics


    I continue being famous...

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    A year ago 無標題, a journalist student from Taiwan, who visited Andrými interviewed me. Read it. It's very me:

    But she thinks that it’s not just tourists’ problem, it’s more of the government’s responsibility. They should have started planning after seeing the tourism boom from 2010. That’s another thing she dislikes about Iceland. They really don’t know how to plan things properly and in advance.


    His blog about his Icelandic experience can be found here.


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