REM's Murmur used to mean everything in the world to me. In the days when a punk rock shirt signified a co-conspirator, Murmur might have been from the college rock wing, but it was part of the same left of the dial fabric. Its kudzu draped cover promised a Southern mystery tinged of bohemia. I fell for their Byrds and Velvet Underground laced stew hard. I even embarked on my own trip to Athens, GA in the spring of 1986. It was a "pilgrimage" of the highest order. I bought records in the Wuxtry that Peter Buck used to work at and strolled the streets downtown in an amphetamine dazzle of thoughts. My issues of Tasty World (an Athens music magazine) I had bought in the Murfreesboro Cat's Records sprang to life and for a few days in which I didn’t sleep I felt more than alive, I absolutely felt electric.
College rock was indeed an alternate universe in those days and it felt like a movement was sweeping the cognoscenti across the land. The last of the boomers were finishing college and the eldest of my generation were entering college. Green On Red sang about a "Brave Generation", but the Replacements really summed it up with "Bastards of Young" years before the term Generation X was used. We latchkey children from the 70's seemed destined to always sit at the kid's table while the boomers made their mark, but at least we had great music made by the last wave of the baby boom. For better or worse, it would be my peers that put the alternative lollapalooza world on the map. REM is perhaps the biggest of the groups that escaped the college rock ghetto with hardly a cry of sellout to be heard. Does their music still move me?
REM was one of a handful of acts I worshipped and their influence cannot be denied. One of the great things about being young is being idealistic and having the energy to put those thoughts into motion. Whenever I felt off the path of the future places I envisioned for myself, Murmur became a reassuring soundtrack that re-energized my youth and quieted my fears. When I put the record on now I'm left wondering why the record does nothing for me today. I sometimes question where the problem lies. Did my heart grow smaller? Is the inevitable second guessing (ha-ha) of oncoming middle age the problem? Maybe I can no longer live up to the expectations and hope the record used to inspire. Or maybe it was REM's own inexorable slide into mediocrity, which accompanied their arrival into superstardom that has laid a patina of green (pun intended) onto the copper majesty of their early days.