Back when my college radio station (WMEB 91.9 FM, University of Maine at Orono) started playing this band, I was totally enthralled. Sparse-but-tight drumming, hyperactive basslines, nice (if somewhat strange) harmonies and plenty of swirling guitar. Elements of folk, elements of rock. I didn’t always know that Michael Stipe was getting at, but loved the snippets of lines that emerged out of the haze here and there: “…your hate, clipped and distant…”, “…so much more attractive, inside the moral kiosk”.
Murmur was a record that required extensive investigation (…looking back at the mountains of reviews written about this album, I’ve come to believe that the critics were being lazy with those Byrds comparisons. At the time, nothing sounded like Murmur.) Me and my buddy Gene had it on heavy listening rotation at our evening listening sessions at his folks’ house on top of the hill in Bangor. Many hours were spent sitting on the couch, getting slowly dry-roasted by the too-hot woodstove, while we played this and other (I believe Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom was on the list as well) records. As those kind of experiences are playing out, you of course have no idea how precious they are. That adulthood will soon take over and opportunities to sit and reflect will be just a little tougher to come by.
Tonight me and TheWife will be heading out to upstate New York to visit with Gene, his wife Regina and their young & impossibly cute almost two-year old daughter Savannah. My how things have changed since 1983! Still, we will get the chance to sit around a bit and put on some tunes. In fact, vinyl will probably be involved. Maybe even a little R.E.M.
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