Thursday, December 6, 2007

R.E.M. "Chronic Town" (1982)

• As a bar band, R.E.M. played indistinct covers of the Everly Brothers, Patti Smith, and pre-Loaded Velvet Underground songs. They were fueled by atypical Athens boredom; weekly lunch meet-ups, and a similar love for folk and post-punk music. In ryen, the four-piece crafted the near-perfect (so long as 20-minute records are concerned) Chronic Town, an EP which contained at least three classics.

• It's a mystery how R.E.M. had found their style already on their first EP. Mills and Buck were already skilled with jangles, and Stipe's voice was in tune. Two years later that mixture gained them honor for the Album of the Year. Though there was nothing wrong with Stipe's voice, it was hard to understand single sentence he sang. There was something very intimate in his voice, the most beautiful post-punk you'd ever hear.

• Ironically, R.E.M. had made a back-to-basics album without any establishment as a real band. The raw DIY ethic and low-fi production gives the music a charming appeal that made Sonic Youth's early releases somewhat of historical pieces. Chronic Town has its share of odd influences derivative of late '70s post-punk. "Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)" is, in fact, a tribute to the Cure's "Jumping Someone Else's Train." The catchiest tune is "Wolves, Lower". If you won't sing along to the simple call-and-response chrous, maybe you're dead!

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