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Confessions of a Fanboy 008: More Money Than Sense

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I have been working a lot of extra hours the past few months. Those extra hours have come with a few extra dollars attached and I have dutifully spent them… mostly on music.

I will spare you all the details but it seems those extra [paid] hours are about to be a thing of the past. So will the extra dollars. I will be returning to my usual, and by no means meager, music budget. I drove to Nashville (2 hours) after work to drop the last of my overtime money on music.

This excellent installment (and the conversation it sparked) of Sir Brewster's Bootleg Country series revealed I had a certain hole in my music collection.

One of the first purchases I made was R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction. I am listening to it now. I knew several of these songs (from their inclusion on Eponymous and having hung out with more than one R.E.M. fan over the years).

I was not on the ground floor of the whole R.E.M. thing. I was 10-years old when Murmur was released (sorry, Sir Saleski, but it is true) and my parents had strict rules about the kind of music we were allowed to hear. Besides, I am not sure the band had reached small, middle-class Iowan elementary schools. I began asserting my musical independence around the time of their commercial peak, but when other kids were buying Document, I was buying Girls, Girls, Girls. Fortunately, I grew out of it.

The point of that story is to explain how I could have gotten so many of R.E.M.'s albums without owning Fables of the Reconstruction until last night. I picked up the band's trail beginning with Automatic for the People – which remains the best thing the band has ever or will ever record. I tried to move forward with the releases that followed while at the same time catching up with what they had done before. What can I say? I got most of it. I like most of it (and love plenty of it). Somehow, I managed to miss this one.

Actually, I have a pretty good idea how I missed this one. One of the flaws in the way I consume music is I get a lot and I go through it fast. Some albums and some artists get careful study. Some only get cursory listens. A day like today, when I find myself listening to a very good album I missed out on, reminds me there are times to savor rather than gulp.

I breezed through R.E.M.'s back catalog. Some of it stuck, some of it never registered. I went through it all so fast I had trouble distinguishing one jangle record from another. I thought I already had Fables– I knew some of the major songs and just assumed I had already bought it. Ooops. I was wrong. When I realized I was wrong, I told myself to be on the lookout for it but I am easily distracted and I forgot about it. Brewster's piece and the conversation that followed have sent me into a major R.E.M. phase and I pulled the trigger last night.

I mentioned Fables as being one of the first purchases. There were others. This is the part where the dollar:sense ratio goes out of whack. Some of you will be inclined to laugh at me when you read the following. Know only these two things:

1) You're right and I can't argue with you.

2) I don't care. I don't care that you're right. I don't care that you're laughing.

Rhino released deluxe editions of all of R.E.M.'s Warner Brothers releases (Orange, Out of Time, Automatic for the People, Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Up, Reveal, and Around the Sun). I already owned the deluxe Automatic and last night I purchased Monster, New Adventures, and Up.

What's so funny about that? I already owned those albums! There is, to my knowledge, nothing different about the CDs I bought from the ones I already had. I thought Automatic and the rest of the albums in this series had at least been re-mastered when I purchased it. It turns out I was wrong. Yet, for some reason, I bought an additional three deluxe versions.

If the albums are the same, what did I get for my money besides duplicate copies of an album? Each set comes with a bonus DVD. The bonus DVD contains a surround sound version of the album playable on any DVD player, a DVD-Audio version of the album which can only be heard on DVD players capable of reading that layer, and a few other meaningless trinkets.

I cannot explain why I wanted these fucking things. I spent a lot of money re-buying these albums- more than it cost to buy them a first time. I could have done wise things with that money. I almost said wiser, but there is nothing wise about what I did. I wanted the deluxe editions and bought them.

Here is where things get funnier. My mind is not often a great place to be but every once in awhile it tries to bail me out. I listened to my original copy of Monster on the way to Nashville to buy these fancy versions. I could swear the new version sounded better than the old version. It cannot and I am sure it does not. It's the same fucking CD. How can one sound better than the other? It is not possible. My mind is playing tricks on me to try to save face and I am content to go along with the hoax. Ignorance is bliss. It is also expensive.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Mark Saleski

    Grimey’s strikes again?

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    I went to Grimey’s first- they only had Automatic. I had to go to Tower for the others.

    Oh… and the three more I have bought since then. Yes, I am that retarded.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    It is worth mentioning that the surround version of “Star Me Kitten” from Automatic is an experience our friend A.L. Harper could describe better than I.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    She could explain it using nothing but vowels and/or our Lord’s name in vain.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Something like that, yeah.

  • SFC SKI

    I can understand your plight. I have more recorded music than I could possibly listen to, yet I buy more. I do find myself buying digital versions of analog originals, too. All that is not so bad, but the fact that a lot of great music; one hit wonders, obscure ’80’s import only bands, indie and alternative bands from a time when those names meant something, and one-off live broadcasts losts in the haze of freeform radio past, those I may never find.

    BTW, by the time “Girls, Girls, Girls” came out, R.E.M. had already fallen into the trap often taking themselves too seriously, you made the right choice. Now Murmur and Eponymous, I’d get those, and Green.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    When did R.E.M. not take itself too seriously? They seem to me to have always been a bit self-conscious in that regard.

    Speaking of Eponymous, R.E.M. released a new compilation of the I.R.S. years and it blows Eponymous out of the water in terms of capturing that 8-year run.

  • Mark Saleski

    if i could write a batch of tunes as great as Automatic For The People then i would deserve to take myself seriously.

    or something like that.

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Why anyone would have any desire to buy two copies of Up is beyond me. One copy is more than enough, heck about 1/3 is enough.

    By buying these extras you are saying that you have the rest of the back catalogue (Murmur, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document, Reconing) right?

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Sir Saleski- you are not kidding. Automatic is a masterpiece and an album I consider to be an all-time great. That was a gentle nudge at R.E.M., not a harsh indictment of them. That is a fuckin’ masterpiece.

    Sir Brewster, I am proud to say I am now complete. I’ve got them all, including multiple copies of some. I’ll probably trade those duplicates in at a used place towards some new stuff.

    I read an interview Stipe gave about the new compilation and his assessment of Up is that it is about two songs too long. He’s right. It is too long. It is maybe 3 songs too long. If you trim 2-3 songs from it, it doesn’t become Automatic good but it does improve the overall album.

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Upon chastizing you I began looking through my REM collection and realized that I am short a Document. I’m sure I had it at some point and have lost it. So I may be headed to the store shortly for some REM shopping.

    I have been listening to the band all afternoon though.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    I am listening to “Welcome to the Occupation” as we speak.

    It is easy to forget Document was a good record because of the two “hits.” It kind of gets lost in the flood. I like this album. I have been listening to the band since your Bootleg Country piece.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    There’s REM music that’s loose and breezy but there’s always a degree of self-consciouss reflection about it. I think that’s why they’re one of my favorite bands, actually — they’re just right for that certain mode of introspection (and, sometimes, wallowing!).

    My favorite REM albums far and away are Life’s Rich Pageant and New Adventures in Hi-Fi. My first album purchase of theirs — Out of Time — is actually my least fave of thiers, funnily enough.

    Great piece, DJR !

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    So true, Mat — I’ll go through REM binges myself — they’re that kind of band for me. Document is a hell of a great record. Damn, “Exhuming McCarthy” is a great song and catchy as hell and a great political statement and is still fresh all these years later — how many songs can you say that about?

  • http://www.magicjunk.com/blog Mark Sahm

    In my teens, I pigeonholed R.E.M. because of songs like ‘Stand’ and ‘Shiny Happy People’.

    But after I reluctantly saw the REMers live twice (as a courtesy to my wife, who’s a huge fan), I realized they wrote many great tracks.

    I still hate Shiny Happy People though. And Imitation of Life. :o)

  • http://www.myspace.com/magicjunk S.Rod

    Mark, I knew that your life would not be complete until you heard Imitation of Life played live at MSG. ;P

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Mostly agreed on Shiny Happy, but I think Imitation is a great tune. I said that Out of Time was my least favorite REM album earlier, but it’s actually got some great songs on it. “Radio Song” is not one of them — it’s probably my least favorite on them all (and kind of a go at shaking the self-conscious thing for once!).

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    “Imitation of Life” is a weird one for me. I think it is wonderfully catchy and tuneful and yet has some of THE worst lyrics. On balance, I like it but with a twist of a cringe on my face at various times.

    Interesting mention of “Exhuming McCarthy.” I just bought that compilation and I think they did a marvelous job with track selection. “Exhuming” might be the one mistaken omission but they got so much right it is hard to quibble there.

    “Shiny Happy People” is classic camp. Sure, it’s a bad song but it is also fun.

    Around The Sun is my least favorite album. “Leaving New York” is a stunner and is Stipes best vocal. The rest of that album is trash.

    I still have never seen them live. Thanks to EB, S.Rod, and Sahm for stopping by.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/tinkie101 tink

    I so totally get the whole have-to-have complete catalog point of view. Be glad that it’s contained itself to just US releases.

    Hope I didn’t just open up a new can o’ worms…

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Too late, Tink. I have certainly scoured the earth and the ‘net for European singles and b-sides and compilations and the like.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Congrats! A link to this article now appears at our Myspace Profile page.

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Out of Time was my first full length REM album, as I’d only listned to the singles beforehand. I loved it then and I love it now. “Radiosong” aint so great but come on “losing my religion” is a great song. As is most of the album. It is a little shinier than most of their previous albums and a little less jangly, but I think it still holds up.

    Agreed that Automatic is their master work and a true classic album.