Index of Articles
printed in the new york times on sunday september 8th.
BREAKING NEW GROUND, BUT THE ROOTS HOLD FAST
by bobbie ann mason
Time to drop pop music. Leave the butthole surfers and pearl jam to the kids.
But not r.e.m. Through 11 albums, it has built a reputation for innovation
and artistic integrity. And yet, with its new Warner Brothers deal, it has
become one of the world's highest-paid bands. This 80s alternative-rock band
from athens, GA., turned 90s superstars-now in their 30's-keeps breakingh
rich new ground. Or new-ground, as we say in the South.
REM's wellspring is the South. the hippie revolution came so late to the
South that it was still being absorbed when punk arrived to debunk it. I
imagine these overlapping forces energized REM's music with both a sense of
tradition and an urge towards edge.
as a southerner, i'm partial. REM's fabled murmuring and mumbling isn't so
strange. ambiguity is our middle name. southern indirection baffles people
who prize assertiveness over modesty. we don't always say what we mean. the
lines blur. in the south, things aren't clear-cut.
REM is as mule-headed as any of us. it's characteristic of REM to release a
cd--NAIHF comes out on tuesday-and then take a vacation instead of touring.
and the band won't release the obvious hit from the disk as the firstsingle.
instead, it chose 'ebow the letter,' which it calls a folk dirge. a
background vocal by patti smith hauntingly takes over. in southern
storytelling, the sound of the voice weighs more than the tale itself. in the
impressionistic early REM lyrics, sound superseded meaning. but the enigmatic
lyrics are growing clearer, like images emerging on photographic paper.
we are in l.a. loud rock-and-roll shakes a sound stage in the building where
charlie chaplin made his silent movies. REM is shooting a video. the band
performs before an imagined backdrop, a trailer for a bad european movie,
like godard's 'weekend' if it were made for tv. they're wearing
pseudo-italian garb. bill berry, the drummer, wears a fish-net-covered black
jacket. peter buck, the lead guitarist, has on a black suit with a loud
yellow shirt, and mike mills, teh bassist, is in a purple velvet suit. the
lead sin ger michael stipe is in stripes. his head is shaved. he moves in
little electric-shock jerks. it's an angry ecstasy.
video shoots are notoriously dull, but since REM doesn't lip-sync but plays
atop the tape, we have an illusion of authenticity. the music surges through
me. the song itself, 'bittersweet me', is just that, like dark chocolate. all
afternoon the chilling line 'i'd sooner chew off my leg than be trapped in
this' surfaces in bold clarity.
on breaks the guys shed their miracle-fabric jackets and head for the snacks.
michael stipe brushes his teeth, swisthing his mouth w/spring water and
spitting into the trash can by the buffet table.
peter buck and mike mills talk the most. bill berry politely retreats, sayig,
'i jsut don't like to talk about myself.' he hangs out with some street kids,
shooting a basketball into a shopping cart.
mike mills, who wears dolce & gabbana duds confidently, is proud of the new
album, which was recorded during hte band's 1995 'monster' tour. "it's a
travelogue," he says. "it was recorded all over the world, with a variety of
techniques, some more hi-fi than others. my favorite song on the record,
'HTWWWAWIGU' we recorded the third time we played it through.
his discordant splashes of piano highlight this eerie lament. "i had
absolutely no idea where it was going or what was going to happen," he says.
"i was just trying to think thelonious monk-not that i have any ideaw how to
play like thelonious monk."
in the south you've got to offer those qualifiers. it's a sin to get stuck
"at the end of the day, we're just a rock-and-roll band,' mike adds. "the
world of rock stardomness is not reality. I like to use the word
'stardomness' becasue it tells you it's not real. it's totally silly and
peter buck, who could talk your ear off, is comfortable to be around. he
reads voraciously. "I wouldn't want to live very far out in the country," he
says. "I have to be near a bookstore." he disavows the importance of rock and
roll music. "Reading is more important, but people dont read. they listen to
i'm impressed, but i know. southerners aim to be polite. so when a southerner
meets a writer...
"we can't keep up with all the bands anymore," peter says. "there are too
many. we used to kow all the bands, every band in every city. and i've slept
on their floors! adult rock is usually a pejorative term. but our audience is
older now. ther's a way to do it when you're an adult without it being mellow
and old. pepole think of rock and roll as rebellion, being cool. we were
never that kind of band-rebel for rebellion's sake. if you really wanted to
rebel, you'd take all your money and give it away. that is rebellion. but all
these rock stars have nice houses and nice cars."
he can imagine touring again, perhaps in a couple of years, but he says when
he's 50 he cna imagine being a lounge guitarist.
For your McPaper breakfast, here's USA Today's review of NAiHF...
09/09/96 - 11:16 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version
POP/ROCK ALBUM REVIEW
Resilient R.E.M. spins out excellent new 'Adventures'
New Adventures in Hi-Fi (**** out of four) is vivid proof that R.E.M.
wasn't asleep at the wheel during its 1995 Monster tour.
Recorded mostly at concerts and sound checks, the band's 12th and
longest (65 minutes) album, out Tuesday, crackles with creative
daring, belying the tour's spate of medical crises: drummer Bill
Berry's near-fatal brain aneurysm, Michael Stipe's hernia and bassist
Mike Mills' intestinal surgery.
Adversity left the band empowered, judging by the intensive care
applied to Hi-Fi's high-wire risks and high-octane drive. Alternately
noisy and languid, it gyrates between the brash sexuality of 1994's
Monster and the reflective beauty of 1992's Automatic for the People.
Prudent editing could have rectified indulgent jams, but the live
setting provides a sense of wanderlust and urgency, liberating songs
from the sterile patina acquired in a claustrophobic studio.
Hi-Fi roams stylistically, even sporting a smidgen of hip-hop, yet
clings to a familiar folk-rock sensibility that's elastic enough to
accommodate everything from big rocker Undertow to Zither, a gentle,
exotic instrumental taped in a Philadelphia dressing room.
As usual, eloquent details elevate the songs: a ghostly pump organ in
Leave, guitar contortions in the geeky Be Mine, sweet mandolin strains
in New Test Leper, a losing-my-religion waltz.
Stipe's word rushes conjure early Bob Dylan, especially in E-Bow the
Letter, where the hurt yearning in his agitated voice is purged by the
maternal warmth in guest singer Patti Smith's.
The album closes with the melancholy jangle of Electrolite, sealed by
Stipe's kiss-off, "I'm outta here." His abrupt exit is Hi-Fi's only
By David Patrick Stearns, USA TODAY
Here's a Reuters article I saw this morning. Nothing new, really...
[ Reuters New Media]
Tuesday September 3 8:06 PM EDT
FEATURE: R.E.M. Set Off On Another Sonic Adventure
By Gary Graff
DETROIT (Reuter) - So is R.E.M. worth the $80 million Warner Bros.
reportedly paid to re-sign the Athens, Ga., quartet for five more
As the group prepares to release its latest album, ``New Adventures in
Hi-Fi'', you won't hear guitarist Peter Buck say anything to the
``I'm not going to make any great claims, but I feel comfortable with
where we are,'' Buck, 39, says from his Seattle home as he tends to
his twin daughters.
Calling ``New Adventures'' ``if not our best than equal to our best''
album, Buck points out that ``very few people have their 10th record
(of original material) be their best record. ''The (Rolling) Stones
and Beatles had really hot runs and did great works.
``They're the exceptions. Especially in the last few years, not that
many groups have managed to sustain that high a level of quality. U2
does it. Nick Cave does it. We do it. I can't think of a lot of other
people in my generation who have continued to really do good work at
Yet, Buck adds, ``I don't think we've accomplished what we can
accomplish. We have roads to go down still. But we're doing what I
would really like to do, which is create a strong body of work. I feel
confident the band can stay together and do good work.''
But lest he sound a little too liberal with his praise, Buck adds a
``We haven't done our 'Everybody's Rockin'' or 'Trans' yet,'' he says,
referring to two poorly received Neil Young albums. ``I accept the
fact there's going to be something that doesn't work. And that'll be
``New Adventures'' isn't that album, however. It was conceived and
recorded mostly on the road during R.E.M.'s 1995 ''Monster'' world
tour -- at soundchecks, during shows, even one song (''Zither'') in
the shower stall of a Philadelphia locker room.
Loose and spirited, its 14 songs blend all aspects of R.E.M.'s '90s
output -- ``Monster's'' hard rocking sensibility, the brooding
ambience of ``Automatic for the People'' and the acoustic chime of
1991's ``Out of Time.''
Buck says the album's concept popped up during 1994 interviews to
promote ``Monster.'' He and drummer Bill Berry told journalists about
their idea to record a bunch of new songs while on the road; the
writers then asked singer Michael Stipe and bassist Mike Mills, who
hadn't been clued into the concept, about it.
``Eventually the came over and said 'What is this about us doing a
live record?''' Buck says with a laugh.
``Most bands at our level go out and play hits. Not only were we not
playing hits we had, but we were spending hours every day working on
stuff no one had ever heard.''
A particularly special track on the album is the first single, ``E-bow
the Letter'', on which '70s punk rock hero Patti Smith makes a guest
A hero of the R.E.M. members, she joined them onstage periodically
during the tour and sang on the track when Stipe decided he wanted a
female counterpoint vocal.
``Seeing Patti perform live in the '70s, for me, re-defined the way
you could approach being in a rock band,'' Buck remembers. ``I
would've given five years off my life if I could've played with her
band in the '70s.
``So having her sing with us was really exciting. And seeing her in
the studio singing a song I wrote, there's not much to compare to
that.'' With ``New Adventures'' set to come out, Buck and his
bandmates are already contemplating the future -- and not just what
they're going to do with their shares of the $80 million. Another
R.E.M. album looms, and Buck predicts another creative left turn,
perhaps into looser, more improvisational areas.
He also expects to see another R.E.M. tour -- again, something
entirely different for the band.
``I feel like standing onstage with an acoustic guitar,'' he says.
``We went out and had our rock tour; it was great and we enjoyed it.
Maybe next time we'll be four guys in suits doing quieter stuff, maybe
with a cellist or vibes player.''
The point, he says, is that R.E.M. has a future, despite almost
endless speculation of the band's imminent demise.
``I remember when I was a teenager, they did the same thing to Led
Zeppelin and the Stones,'' Buck says. ``I remember reading in Circus
magazine that it was all over for the Stones. That was about two
months before 'Exile on Main Street' came out!
``I'm flattered we're big enough that people have all these
speculations about us. I just want this record to come out and blow
'em away. And then next year we'll do another one.''
Copyright © 1996 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Comments to: email@example.com
By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Reuter) - The four members of R.E.M. took just four days
last week to make the biggest financial decision of their career when they
signed a contract reportedly worth more than $80 million with their current
label, Warner Bros. Records.
This time a year ago, however, it seemed as if R.E.M's fruitful
relationship with the label might end with the upcoming fifth and final album
under its 1988 contract. Warner Bros. is only now starting to recover from
several years of upheaval in the executive suites which caused nervous
artists to wonder whether the label would lose its reputation as a nurturing
``It's stabilized over the past two years, certainly in the last year
since Russ (Thyret, the label's chairman and CEO) and Steven (Baker, label
president) took over,'' Bertis Downs, R.E.M.'s legal adviser, told Reuters.
``So we felt like there was no question that it was fine. I wouldn't have
thought that a year or two years ago, which is why we didn't sign with them
then. But there's no question that they've stabilized at least for us, if not
Speaking from the band's office in Athens, Ga., Downs declined to discuss
financial terms of the six-album contract or identify the other labels who
News reports have said the contract includes a $10 million signing bonus,
a blue chip royalty rate of 24 percent, a $10 million advance per album plus
a $20 million royalty advance on future sales of its catalog.
All in all, it's the biggest in music history for one of the biggest
bands in the world. Sony, Capitol and DreamWorks were reported as the other
``Warner made a very substantial good investment here,'' Downs said.
``They're at risk, but they're going to do just fine, I think.''
Downs, acting as the band's de facto manager since the firing of original
manager Jefferson Holt several months ago, started talking a few weeks ago
with the labels that had put contract offers on the table.
DreamWorks was widely seen as having a strong chance of snaring the
group, since the music division is run by Mo Ostin, who was pushed out as
Warner Bros. Records chairman at the end of 1994 and unsuccessfully lured
Dwns said the Ostin factor wasn't a trump card, although R.E.M. has a
``huge amount of respect and affection'' for him. Rather, the three major
issues for the band, when it began a two-day meeting in Athens last Tuesday,
were financial, musical and personal.
Financial was not considered a major factor. ``Anybody would be crazy
enough to want to pay plenty of money,'' Downs said. ''You get what you pay
for, and people were going to be happy to make a substantial offer and in
fact did. We had some very substantial proposals from some fine labels.''
Warner Bros. had extra leverage though because of its rights to the
Likewise, musical wasn't much of an issue either. ``Every label we talked
to would have given us every ounce of creative control we wanted because
everybody knos these guys ultimately, collectively make good decisions,'' he
So it boiled down to personal, and Warner Bros. had the advantage because
its staffers around the world had established a great rapport over the years
with the band. ``The band, I'm sure, could make good records for any label,
but there's absolutely no question that Warners has supported every move
they've made including the weird ones,'' Downs said.
He mentioned the band's decisions not to tour in support of the ``Out of
Time'' and ``Automatic For the People'' albums of 1991 and 1992 respectively,
treks that would have put millions in the coffers of both the group and the
label. It did tour behind 1988's ``Green'' and 1994's ``Monster'', however.
So in the end, re-signing with Warner Bros. wasn't the big crisis it
could have been. Downs called the label late last Wednesday to arrange talks
for the following day. Thursday involved ``pretty intense sessions.'' Friday
saw contracts drafted and faxed back and forth. The deal was announced
Saturday to label employees at a convention in Anaheim, Calif.
Downs said the deal is strictly musical with no books or movies or
multimedia on the side. The band continues to own the copyrights for every
song it has ever written. ``The publishing is something the band has always
felt strongly about hanging onto themselves. It's been one of their charter
provisions, I guess.''
The eight albums the band recorded for now-defunct IRS Records before
signing to Warner Bros. are ultimately owned by IRS' parent EMI Records, and
R.E.M. has very little control over them, Downs said. ``Mistakes of our
mis-spent youth,'' he said of the 1982 contract the little-known group signed
with IRS. Reuters/Variety
After the negative view from Melody Maker, I thought I'd post this
more positive one from 'Select' written by David Cavanagh.
After 'Monster''s lumpy grunge, R.E.M.'s tenth studio LP finds them back on
Many a heart sank upon first exposure to R.E.M.'s last album, 'Monster'.
Yes, it was an ideal time to make a rock 'n' roll record, but R.E.M.'s
over-reliance on two-chord fuzz-outs and off putting irony meant that 'Monster'
didn't really swing and failed to cut into the listener's nerve centre the way
its predecessors, 'Out Of Time' and 'Automatic For The People', managed to.
The 14 songs on 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' stake an eloquent claim: that
this is an R.E.M. record as good as any , probably even the best yet.
coming and going, these songs linger and infiltrate, adding up - in terms of
sonic impact- to the luxuriant strangeness of 'Automatic' juxtaposed with the
attack of a 'Monster' thrice-improved, and much, much else besides.
The very first track 'How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us',
a new way for R.E.M.: a trip-hop drumbeat, a piano, a reedy organ and a '60s
spy-film guitar lick. There's no way you'd know it was them, until Stipe sings
the chorus: "The story is a sad, one told many times/ The story of my life in
trying times/ Just add water, stir in lime/ How The West was won and where it
No time to be confused by that. Suddenly we're into a punky, terrific
glam-rock number called 'The Wake-Up Bomb', some of which - as with the
of the record- was recorded in America on the 'Monster' tour (there are 'live'
performances and recordings taped at soundchecks: four tracks were done
a Seattle studio).
Then comes an 'Automatic' style semi-acoustic song, 'New Test Leper', with
a sad tale about a talk-show guest in the States being humiliated: "When I
to tell my story/ They cut me off to take a break/ I sat silent, five
commercials/ I had nothing more to say..." This is trule brilliant.
Now comes the harsh and murky 'Undertow', one of three new songs R.E.M.
played in Britain last summer. (Another of them, 'Departure', is also on the
album, although not 'Revolution'.) The first single 'E-Bow The Letter', arrives
next - its mad-folk uneasieness fits perfectly into such a restless
tracklisting. Weirdest yet is 'Leave' , a pulverising seven-minute blowout with
a continuously whooping synthesiser. Where is this crazy, wonderful album
Everywhere? And there's much more of the journey still to take: to jangle-rock
('Bittersweet Me'); to the elegant and formal 'Be Mine', virtually a proposal
of marriage set to music; to 'So Fast, So Numb' - the guitar song to accompany
you on your Walkman this autumn.
The final two are just incredible. 'Low Desert' is a growling swamp-rock
song of such mercury finesse that it could have gone on the Stones' 'Let It
Bleed'. And 'Electrolite' - R.E.M.'s most sweetly piano-flavoured track since
'(Don't Go Back To) Rockville' - is, while poppy and optimistic, just as
resounding a finale in its way as 'Find The River' was.
At 65 minutes, 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' has the most words and the most
music R.E.M. have ever put on a record. For all its noir mystery and bravura
diversity, the message it sends out couldn't be more lucid. It's the sound of
one of the world's great bands at the peak of their powers.
- How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us-
R.E.M. members' favourite song on the album. An insidious film-soundtrack-style
opener with an exotic jazz piano solo.
- The Wake-Up Bomb-
A revved-up song about a New York glam club, with bizarre teenage lyrics:
ya/ I don't wanna be ya/ Lunch me/ Pond scum"
- New Test Leper-
... and back to 'Automatic'-like textures for this melancholy track with an
electric guitar fed through a Leslie speaker. The loveliest guitar effect known
- E-Bow The Letter-
The first single. Patti Smith sings backing vocals on the most perverse R.E.M.
choice of 45 ever.
Whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop. Cacophonous ARP synthesiser epic from a newly
Cracking guitar riff. Stipe in combative mood: "There is. So much. That I.
do." Would have sounded good on 'Green'.
The second 45. A Byrdsian jangler of the 'Fables Of The Reconstruction' ilk,
which bursts suddenly into a powerful chorus.
Extremely poetic declaration of love. "And if I choose your sanctuary/ I'll
to wash you with my hair." Mike Mills on guitar.
-Binky The Doormat-
A beautiful, soaring song with a slight Nirvana feel. Vintage R.E.M.
double-vocals from Stipe and Mills.
The instrumental. Semi-lovely, semi-hilarious. The Shadows meets The Third Man
-So Fast, So Numb-
Utterly irrepressible upbeat number with fantastic harmony vocals. Also a great
drop-out bit. Like a friendlier 'What's The Frequency, Kenneth?'.
A smoking swamp-blues song recorded- like many of the songs- with the 'Monster'
tour's two auxilliary musicians, Scott McCaughey and Nathan December.
A touching finale. See Los Angeles the Stipe way - from the air- and bliss out
on that piano.
How R.E.M. Recorded in a Spectrum Bathroom
by Tom Moon
When R.E.M. began its MONSTER tour in late '94 [sic], it had a big agenda:
The Athens, Ga. quartet not only intended to promote its current work, it
wanted to write and record a new batch of songs.
Everything was documented: rehearsals, soundchecks, dressing-room jam
sessions and more than 110 two-hour concerts during which the band performed
at least a few new tunes each night.
From that massive tape library comes the 14-song NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI,
which arrives in stores Tuesday.
One of the new selections, the instrumental "Zither," was recorded during
the band's Oct. 12-14 engagement at the CoreStates Spectrum last year. "We
knew we'd be there for a few nights, so we could set up the room and leave
it," guitarist Peter Buck recalled late last month, days after the band
signed a lucrative new deal with its longtime label, Warner Bros. Records.
The actual location was the visiting hockey team dressing room. "We had
the guitar amp in a shower stall, the tambourine in the bathroom itself, the
autoharp in a hallway, and the organ was in the [dressing] room. The bass
went directly into the [soundboard]."
The band knew that some of the material would only work in unconventional
surroundings, said Buck. "Zither," for example, required a "live" room,
audio talk for a place that gives even the smallest sound zing.
"A fully tiled room is an amazing thing," Buck said of the oversized
Spectrum bathroom. "You wouldn't have wanted a drum set in there, but we
could tell when we walked in that we could capture something like 'Zither'
there. It was nice and spacious.
"So between the soundcheck and the show every day, like around 6:30, we'd
go and try to record it a few times. It was live...so no fixing was possible.
When we left town, I think we had 12 or 14 versions."
Not only did the HI-FI strategy allow R.E.M. to work outside of the
antiseptic studio environment, it kept the band and crew engaged during the
process of touring.
"There's good energy when you're playing well," Buck said. "But it can
turn ito bad energy if you're playing the same songs over and over. We
wanted to channel that into something that was creative. It got more and
more exciting as we went along. After you've been out for a while, you
never see the crew watching a soundcheck. But they were there every night,
yelling and stuff."
Buck, who said that R.E.M. has no immediate plans to tour, admits that he
and his cohorts were spared the job of sorting the show tapes and over 100
hours of soundcheck material. That job fell to producer Scott Litt and
supporting guitarist Nathan December, who assembled "highlights." The band
made the final selections, then went into a Seattle studio to try a different
approach to four tunes, including the first single, "E-bow the Letter,"
which features Patti Smith.
But most of HI-FI, including memorable tracks such as "The Wake-Up Bomb"
and "Undertow," come from soundchecks or live shows in Memphis, Detroit,
and Phoenix, among other locales.
"If we record a song 100 times," said Buck, "we're going to get 80 pretty
decent versions, some erratic ones and three really fine takes. Sometimes
we'd finish a show and tell somebody, 'OK, mark that down, that was a
"That made the whole thing an amazingly cool experience. It's nice to
walk off stage going, 'We couldn't have played that any better at all.'"
From Sunday 8 September Athens (Georgia) Daily News and Banner-Herald:
R.E.M.: The lowdown on 'Hi-Fi'
By Rich Copley, Entertainment Editor
It hangs in the distance -- a vast, empty desert illuminated by muted
sunlight aht entices the viewer to explore, to search for an adventure.
The scene could loom outside anyone's car window during a journey
to the American West.
But it's also what catches your eye looking up the dark staircase that
leads to the offices of R.E.M./Athens Ltd. That landscape rolls down
a solitary banner that hangs in front of a window at the top of the stairs.
Beyond that banner, adventures have been taking place every bit as
intreaguing as a trek to mountian vistas.
In the offices, painted in muted purple and yellow tones, R.E.M. has
made many career moves. The most recent was the decision to re-sigh
with Warner Bros. Records, reportedly for more than $80 million -- the
largest recording contract in history.
But the most important adventure to the band is what's being promoted
by that looming banner and contained in yellow envelopes set to be
mailed -- R.E.M.'s new album, "New Adventures in Hi-Fi."
It's the 10th album of new material for the band, which formed in
Athens in 1980 and has been one of the few '80s acts to remain vital
in the '90s.
"It's a simple concept but hard to execute," J.D. Considine, pop
music critic for the Baltimore Sun, says of R.E.M.'s continued
success. "They've managed to remain interesting and good. They
come up with different twists on their sound so that each record
is different from anything before it."
** Their own way
With the album, R.E.M. is once again breaking rock 'n' roll
Ususally a band records an album, goes on tourm goes back in the
studio to record another album and then goes on tour again. R.E.M.,
however, recorded most of "New Adventures" on its yearlong tour after
the release of "Monster" (1994). The band won't be hitting the road
to support the new album.
And though "New Adventures" was recorded on tour, it is by no means
a traditional live album.
"This is not 'R.E.M. Comes Alive'" says the band's attorney, Bertis
Downs, scanning album artwork on the table in front of him. "This was
never going to be a live album of their hits. This was going to be
new songs recorded in all kinds of settings."
Settings such as a dressing room at a Philadelphia concert, on stage in
Detroit and a sound check in Atlanta.
Recording an album of new material on the road is not new. Neil Young's
"Time Fades Away" (1973) and Joe Jackson's "Big World" (1986) were
recorded on the road. The best-known example to date is Jackson Browne's
"Running on Empty" (1978).
Still, "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" is an altogether different effort.
There isn't any crowd noise on the album and no overt references
to being on the road -- nothing like Browne's "The Load Out," a
song that celebrated his roadies.
Instead, it concentrates on themes such as detachment, indulgence and
loss -- feelings that emerge from being away from home for a long time.
"I think -- as much as I never want to react to anything -- I think, to
some degree, every record that we make is a reaction to the one before
it," lead singer Michael Stipe said on VH-1's "One to One" last
September, when "New Adventures" was forming.
"I think we reacted really strongly to 'Monster,' simply becasue there
was so much going on around that record -- namely the tour, a lot of
press, a lot of traveling."
Stipe described the new album as "rawer" than previous efforts while
reminiscent of several R.E.M. albums such as "Lifes Rich Pageant"
(1986), "Automatic for the People" (1992) and "Monster."
It's definitely not the aggressive guitar rock album "Monster" was,
though it has those touches in songs like the swaggering "The Wake-Up
Bomb" and "Departure."
"New Adventures" also includes softer touches. There's the first
single, "E-Bow The Letter," which features singer Patti Smith, and the
meditation, "Be Mine."
Some critics have picked "Electrolite," a sombre song about Hollywood
that was recorded during a sound check in Phoenix, as a possible
Since it was recorded on the road, most of the tracks include touring
musicians Nathan December and Scott McCoughey along with the quartet
of Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill
Berry. "Electrolite" features violinist Andy Carlson.
Though "New Adventures" was a work in progress for a long time,
Downs says it actually "only took about three months to make the
record. the first thing they had to do was catalog. They literally
recorded just about every show on the tour, and so somebody had to
sort out the performances and the sound checks and the dressing room
That task was handled by producer Scott Litt who, with colleagues
at his Los Angeles-based Outpost Recordings, waded through all the
Another big project was making "Road Movie," the film of the Monster
tour that was shown at events in several large cities such as New
York and Atlanta on Saturday night. Portions will be featured at
Monday night's "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" preview party at Georgia
Theatre. The movie will be available on video Oct. 1.
"That's more like the traditional live album," Downs says. "It has
the hits like 'Radio Song' and 'Losing My Religion.' We knew we
weren't going to tour this time, and it's kind of neat to have it
out, because it does have three or four songs from the new record on
Not touring isn't a negative for R.E.M. Its best selling album, "Out
of Time," wasn't supported by a tour.
Though the album and movie put R.E.M. in the spotlight, the band is
actually taking a less-is-more approach to the current projects.
Members did a handful of interviews for the album and are for the
most part on vacation, except rof Mills, who's on a press tour overseas.
"They've basically in the last three years done two records and an
extensive tour," Downs says. "They've worked hard ... and they're
taking a lot of time off."
The new contract calls for five albums -- "New Adventures" is the last
on the old Warner Bros. contract. As for when those will start to
appear, Downs says there are no immediate plans right now.
"They're talking about getting back to write songs nect year, toward
the end of next year," he says. "I guess we can probably count on a
record every couple of years, but you can't really count on anything.
They don't spend that much time thinking about it. They live pretty
close to the present tense."
When plans are made, the news will come bounding down those office
Helen Looker, a mla'er from Ireland (I think it's Ireland) has nicely posted
a bunch of stuff from there and Great Britain to the lists. This one is from
a Peter Buck interview in Hot Press, an Irish Publication. It's an excerpt
where Peter discusses each song. If the whole interview is posted later I
will offer it on the list as usual. - Rebecca
On The Record
Track by track through 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' with Peter Buck.
* How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us
A reggae kind of thing. I think it's a result of a lot of music that's been
happenning in England in the last couple of years and hip-hop stuff, which,
while not hugely influential on all of us, is something we all listen to. It's
somehow managed to creep into the studio in Seattle, surprising us probably more
than anyone else. It's probably my favourite song on the record.
* The Wake-Up Bomb
It's kind of a glam rock stomper in the style of T-Rex. Coincidentally,
written about the whole glam rock scene that's happening in New York now. I know
that Michael spent some time visiting clubs in New York where all the
23-year-olds dressed exactly like we did when we were 17, 18 and 19. I think the
song is kind of an ironic commentary on that. Certainly, the T-Rex influence is
at the foremost on that track.
* New Test Leper
A folk-rocky type thing, it's probably the most traditional R.E.M. song on
the record, written about a guest on a talk show that Michael happened to see
while we were writing this record. Somehow, it's kind of a heartfelt commentary
on it. I can't even think about those talk shows without cringing, myself.
Living in America, we live next to them everyday.
It is a song that we wrote and recorded while on tour using an antiquated
arp synthesiser. That's what is making the white noise sound. I think some of
the guitar mess on there might be a direct result of having toured with Sonic
Youth. So this is our Sonic Youth-influenced song.
* E-Bow The Letter
A dirge-like folk song in which we collaborate with Patti Smith - one of my
idols from my teenage years. We wrote the song kind of with her in mind as the
person who would sing the chorus. It was probably the thrill of my life
musically to actually be in the same room with her singing the song I wrote.
I have no idea of how to describe it. It's a large, noisy, clanky,
synthesiser-driven rock 'n' roll song. It was the very last song that was
written and recorded and mixed for the record. It also has the arp synthesiser
which is so noisy and kind of discordant. I think there might be a little of
Public Enemy influence in there somewhere.
Pretty much just a recounting lyrically of a trip that we took from
Singapore to Spain - with little interjections of trips from the past. It's
definitely a road song written at Roadshack, with one good chord for the verse
and two for the chorus and anything more would be extraneous.
* Bittersweet Me
The second single on the record and it's kind of a disappointed love song -
I don't know. Basically, the song is in two parts - the quiet pretty verse and
the really noisy cranky chorus and somehow they almost make sense together.
* Be Mine
It's a kind of a Valentine in a way. Originally Michael had planned to
write all the lyrics. And either take it from these heart-shaped candies that
you get on Valentine's Day or particularly obnoxious Valentine's Days cards. I
think in the writing he felt that it could be a little bit closer to his heart
and not such a cynical thing. So, in fact it is quite a moving song. It features
Mike Mills on guitar and it's kind of a weird little ballad.
* Binky The Doormat
By far the worst title of any song that we've ever written. It's taken from
a movie called 'The Shakes The Clown', where Binky is a clown who allows people
to walk on him - at least he thinks so. The character in this song is a real
grump. We recorded this one live and it's basically a live track with all the
The only instrumental on the record. We recorded it and put it on the album
because we recorded it live to a DAT machine in the shower stall of a hall in
Philadelphia where we were touring. It's the kind of thing you do backstage.
It's not a great romantic moment - but it's an interesting little piece. And I
like it that we can say: "Yes, it was recorded live in a bathroom."
* So Fast, So Numb
This is a kind of a proto-typical kind of rock song for us with a nifty
guitar solo in the middle. It seems to be a kind of warning to somebody about
behaviour. I don't know what that behaviour would be.
* Low Desert
When it was originally written before it had lyrics, it was called 'Swamp'.
So it was definitely, somehow or other, going to be a landscape song. Michael is
writing about a trip that he imagined that he took. Featuring the great slide
Probably, the folksiest song on the record. It features banjo, violin and
recounts a trip up and down Mullholland Drive in Los Angeles overlooking the big
city and the kind of things that it can make you feel. Great violin solo by a
friend of ours, Andy Carlsson - who is not actually a member of the band, but
has worked with us in the past.
POP MUSIC BORN TO MATURE
Record review / Andrew Gowers - Financial Times
How do rock stars grow old gracefully, with popularity intact and
wealth enhanced ? What s left when chasing fads and smashing hotel
rooms pale into tedium or indignity ? Many more have sought this
modern philosopher's stone than have found it. But there is one
contemporary outfit that seems better equipped than most to succeed:
US mega-band REM. Its answer to the ageing conundrum is never to have
seemed really young. REM exudes a studied disdain of fashion and the
foolishness of those who, in the words of << Wake-Up Bomb >> on its new
collection, << had to teach the world to sing by the age of 21 >>. This
is, of course, somewhat disingenuous. REM is hugely fashionable:
witness the largest-ever record deal it has just signed with Warner
Bros. But it manages somehow to hover beyond the vicious circle of
acclaim and backlash, and that is central to its appeal. It was born
mature with its debut album Murmur in 1983, and the intervening
recordings have been amplifications of the style, not reinventions of
it. The formula includes dark and difficult lyrics, an enigmatically
clever singer, a raw, fresh sound still traceable to the class of <<
garage bands >> from which REM sprang, and occasional - just occasional
- genuflections to contemporary musical trends. The latest - despite
its greater sophistication and ironic title New Adventures in Hi-Fi
(Warner) - is more the same. It is also, like most of the others,
addictive once the habit is acquired. Precisely why is not easy to pin
down. Quality of songs is one reason, from the sated and jaded litany
<< Bittersweet Me >>, to the religiously-tinged love song << Be Mine >>.
Tightness of playing is another: this album, largely recorded at
sound-checks during a US tour, is testament of REM's command and
enjoyment of live performance. Above all, the interaction between
world-weary voice and under-stated but evershifting guitar sounds is
more haunting than ever. Singer Michael Stipe's duet with the
gloriously raddled-sounding Patti Smith to the backing of an electric
sitar on << E-Bow the Letter >> (don't ask me what it means) insinuates
its way into the brain. But that is true of all REM records, including
New Adventures' unjustly predecessor, Monster. Play, and be hooked.
The end omitted because it wasn't about REM...
Thanks to Guy Escheman in Lyon, France for the above atricle...
From: Robert Andrews
Subject: MLA: Adventures given shit review
You are going to hate this review from yesterday's Melody Maker...
I can dispute every sentence, but later on. Needless to say, I'm not happy
I think it is a superb display of miscomprehension of R.E.M. is about from
someone who should pull his head out of his Oasis/Blur/Pulp rear.
If Monster was R.E.M.'s Achung Baby - the stripped-down, toughened-up record
that saw U2 follow more earthy impulses after years of spiritual
pontificating - then New Adventures In Hi-Fi would appear to be their
Zooropa, the first R.E.M. LP about R.E.M., the self-conscious title hinting
(misleadingly, as it turns out) that Stope and Co have not only discovered
technology, they're also having a post-modern blast as one of the biggest
bands on the planet.
Sure enough, the second track, The Wake-Up Bomb - a slow-motion Glitter Band
stomp drenched in fuzztone guitars that recalls David Bowie circa Rebel
Rebel and even namechecks T Rex and The Year That Glam Broke, 1973 - takes
potshots at some cartoon Rock God in "metallic silk wraparound" who "had to
teach the world to sing". The next song, a semi-acoustic waltz called New
Test Leper, goes "I know this show doesn't matter/It means nothing to me",
and suddenly the tone has switched from playfyl to critical, although it's
not clear whether Stipe's being autobiographical.
But Stipe's always looked down on pop, from the supercillious Pop Song 89 to
the facetious Shiny Happy People to The Wake-Up Bomb, a mean-spirited
indictment of the system that has indulged his every whim. He appears to
depise the medium which has afforded him such enormous fame (not to mention
wealth), yet remains confused as to what posture to adopt, simultaneiously
attracted and repelled by the capacity of globally-renowned individuals
(politicians, rock stars) to enthral (a subject first tackled on Worl Leader
Pretend from Green). The technical phrase is "having one's cake and eating it".
New Adventures In Hi-Fi is full of self-important proclaimations that
suggest Stipe just doesn't want to be here. On Leave, he sings "I'm leaving
all behind... longing for my release"; on the duet with Patti Smith, E-bow
The Letter, he shrugs "This star thing, I don't get it", while on
Bittersweet Me, he moans "I don't know what I want anymore." Meet the oldest
whinging teenager in town. Don't pretend that all the attention you're going
to get from New Test Leper ("I can't say that I love Jesus") won't give you
a boner, Michael. Still losing your religion? The New Right will love that.
Scared of being hounded? Come and live with me in Barnet, where I can
guarantee you total anonymity.
Stipe's affected ennui and false modesty highlight R.E.M.'s dilemma: they
fail to excite as pure spectacle because of their refusal to exploit their
roles as global superstars (cf: Bono as MacPhisto), so they're just a
glorified, pumped-up bar band. It's that dread Nineties shame about the
benefits of celebrity (ie money) yet synchronous reluctance to share them
with, say, me, that irritates most, though. Starpower and cash are wasted on
He's not even fabulously f**ed-up. Routinely troubled, yes. More songs about
loss and hope, faith and despair. It's all so pofaced, so joyless. Remember
when bands pursued cheap thrills and expensive habits, the glory days of
Zep/Stones/Who? These days, stadium rockers like R.E.M. are moralistic
family men who abstain from excess. Cheers, mum, for shagging dad 20 years
If you don't buy into the Stipe myth and cannot, therefore, be arsed to
decipher his cryptic solipsisms (is there really any point in decoding a
track called Binky The Doormat?), you're left with one hour's worth of
lumpen rock ordinaire, Lynnrd Skynnrd with knobs on - hear So Fast, So Numb,
Low Desert, and Undertow, all lacking any dynamic interplay between Stipe
and the band, and feel gravity's pull as you freefall onto your bed from
R.E.M., the unchanging men of American rock, may have loomed large over tha
last decade, but they're not "important". The fact that the recent nine-part
"Dancing In The Street" rockumentary - a history of the symbiotic
relationshop between black and white pop - is significant: they haven't
released one ground-breaking record.
Murmur and Reckoning offered a refreshing antidote to early Eighties
whiteboy soul and MTV poodle-metal, bolts of strange folk-tinged melancholia
from the blue - or, rather, sepia.
In 1987, R.E.M.'s Document sat nicely alongside the radical developments of
The Young Gods et al, a comforting slab of trad amid the New Sonic
Architecture. In 1996, though, this sort of conservative grunge-noogie with
pretentions toward profundity is the law, and R.E.M. are the lethal enforcers.
New Adventures isn't all bad: the cello-plaintive Electrolite is fine;
current single E-bow The Letter is R.E.M. at their most gorgeously maudlin;
and Leave, with its electrified car siren whoops, martial beat and jagged
guitar pattern, sounds like The Bomb Squad made a split-second appearance at
the soundcheck where it was recorded.
In fact, much of the New Adventures material was recorded either at
soundchecks, or in concert, or, as in the case of the instrumental Zither,
in a bathroom in Philadelphia. What are they trying to prove? Christ, if any
band requires studio gadgetry (have you heard them live?), it's R.E.M.
Far from being the most eclectiv, experimental affir indicated by early
reviews, R.E.M.'s tenth album is stifflingly monotonous, all bludgeoning
repetition (the bombastic, totalitarian anthems) and cynically passionate
droning (his pleading on surging ballad Be Mine sounds convincing, but
really, could you trust Stipe after The One I Love?). It will sell millions,
but R.E.M. have never "meant" less.
"I'd rather be anywhere, doing anything," the singer bleats on The Wake-Up
Off you go then, Michael.
See ya. Don't wanna be ya.
free-fall, motorcycle, hang-glider