When R.E.M. broke up back in September I didn’t really care too much about it. Sure I knew the band was important and I loved the handful of songs that I knew, but the band’s end did not make me stop to reflect on their awesomeness, cause frankly I didn’t think they were too awesome.
But last week I got into Automatic for the People, and I have a newfound respect for the band – right when they break up! I’m slowing going back through their discography and I’m finding some great music that I’m really enjoying – I guess they truly are a college band. R.E.M. isn’t the easiest band to enjoy, but once you “get the band” they don’t leave you. In the 80s they were the first band to piece together different types of American underground music and created what we know as alternative music. Very few bands were as game-changing as R.E.M. – Everything before them was post-punk, and everything after was alternative.
The follow songs are sort of a greatest hits collection, songs that remind us why we care about this band in the first place. I am still making my way through R.E.M.’s catalog, so there are probably some great songs that I’m missing that hardcore fans will be upset about by their absence – forgive me!
“Radio Free Europe”
The song that started it all. R.E.M.’s first big hit is also considered to be their best. The opener to Murmur, with its jangle guitar and the unique singing of Michael Stripe, sounds like an Americanized Smiths – except this was before The Smiths (so are The Smiths an Europeanized R.E.M.?). Good luck trying to sing along with the song though.
R.E.M. were considered the first alternative band, so this must be the first ever alternative ballad. A slower song will less jangle and more melody which grows on you after each listen. A highlight from Murmur.
Another song that reminds me of The Smiths, this song is bouncy and really gets you going.
This song has been covered many times, but the original always kills.
“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”
You might not know R.E.M. well, but you do know this song. This is for sure one of R.E.M.’s most appealing songs, with a humorous look at a very unfunny time in America.
“Loosing My Religion”
Probably the band’s most well known song. Even if nobody knows what the song is exactly about, it’s a powerful song and a true standout of the 90s. Plus you gotta love that mandolin.
Right now this is probably my favorite R.E.M. song. This is one of their deeper songs, both lyrically and musically. Like much of Automatic for the People, themes of death and life are present, but here the band has never sounded so human.
Also from Automatic, this song is maybe the band’s most stripped down song. Mainly piano with strings accompanying Stripe reminiscing an innocent time in the past. Fun fact: the strings in the song were done by John Paul Jones aka the bass player from Led Zeppelin!
Any songs that I missed? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know @BradyWGerber
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber