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Verse Chorus Verse: R.E.M. – “Laughing”

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We're building a mystery on our weekend edition of "Verse Chorus Verse!"

Have you ever fallen in love with a song and had absolutely no idea why? It happens to me. A lot.

Sometimes it frustrates me. I know why I like most of the songs I like, but there are plenty that I just have no explanation for. I guess it's not always a bad thing. Not everything has to be understood. It's also not such a bad thing for understanding to elude us for awhile. Besides that, mystery can create intrigue and all that leads you to listen to a song you love over and over.

One example from the mystery category is "Laughing," from R.E.M.'s classic debut Murmur.

Most of my favorite songs have one or more of the following: great lyrics, great pop hooks, memorable guitar solos, great harmonies, a killer riff, a big beat. "Laughing" doesn't really have any of those things. I have no idea what Michael Stipe is talking about in this song. I don't know… 75% of what the words actually are, to say nothing of their meaning. There are no great pop hooks or scorching guitar solos. The riff isn't great, although there are interesting layers of strummed and jangle guitars. Mike Mills' bass line moves in interesting ways here and there. The vocal harmonies, if you can call what happens on this chorus harmony, aren't special, although I do like the sonic effect of them. As an R.E.M. fan, it's interesting, too, that the backing vocal isn't from Mike Mills (my guess is that it's a young Bill Berry).

You won't find any of my favorite things in this song, yet I never get tired of listening to it. I don't know what it is I like about this song, and I don't have to.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Thanks, Mark. I’m heading into Week 2 of the series and it’s becoming addictive to write- much fun being had.

    The drum-bass combo in the intro is great, isn’t it? R.E.M. rarely get talked about as great instrumentalists but they have some really cool moments and that intro is one of them. I don’t know that “Laughing” has ever eclipsed “RFE” for me, but it might. That opening salvo on Murmur is no joke.

  • p.s. love this kind of series

  • i know why i love this song:

    -the way the drums and bass lock together at the beginning

    -the delicious tension that is built by Buck with the alternating arpeggios and then clanging chords.

    sometimes, i like it better than Radio Free Europoe