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Customer Review

106 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Right on target", indeed, November 26, 2008
This review is from: Murmur [2 CD Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
I was seriously all prepared to smack this album for being (a) strategically holiday-priced as overinflated, (b) stingy with the extras, and (c) suffering because of el lame-o artwork, blah blah blah. But one spin, and by "Catapult", I'm driving home from purchasing this, singing lyrics at the top of my lungs that were never there to begin with, deeply wishing I could shave 25 years off my life and encounter Berry Buck Mills Stipe again with a fresh set of ears, and even better, secretly negotiating with myself that the hefty price tag was completely worth it after three songs. It just is, and you know it.

What the heck is there to say about this album, except that for me and millions like me, this was "Meet The Beatles"? Or the Bible? Or the soundtrack to the best years of our lives? It would take a year to express why, how, what, and where - but let's get to the important stuff. This is a reissue done RIGHT. No loss of integrity or continuity by remaking the album's order or tacking on distracting extras you don't need or can get elsewhere. Decent, faithful art (okay, maybe the layout of the liner notes could have been less berszerk, but whatever man, play "Sitting Still" LOUD and get over it). A highly righteous live set from '83 that sounds (like all their early live sets did) like you're flying down the highway hands off the wheel headed somewhere, but you're not sure where, and could care less. And interestingly - a little melancholy feeling about where this band has ended up and how it got there, and why there will never be another moment like the first six seconds of "Perfect Circle", or the weird bridge in "Moral Kiosk", or the freaky instrumental moment before "We Walk" that sounds like no other band's music ever, or the elliptical chorus of "Shaking Through" that inspired a million stoned discussions, or the bridge to "9-9" when Michael's extended moan dissolves into an otherworldly growl, or Mike Mills' buried counterpoint in the chorus of "Pilgrimage", or the moment when the guitar just explodes in the end climax of "Laughing", or the feeling that "Talk About the Passion" can't end so soon, carried away on - of all things - the most stately string section ever assembled by a bunch of college kids from (ahem) Athens, Georgia, and their cadre of good ol' boy producers. Georgia??!?! Are you kidding?? Who knew? "And what is that guy singing? And why doesn't this sound like The Minutemen or Black Flag?" There just isn't an album like this, and won't be again, ever. You know it's true, and you already feel what this magnificent and essential moment means. "Murmur", remastered, and done RIGHT.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 30, 2008 10:23:54 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 30, 2008 10:27:55 AM PST
As an older guy, when I first heard this LP in 1983, I had already lived through The Beatles and The Stones, T-Rex and Mott The Hoople. For a bunch of guys in a college town in Georgia, to present this as their first record, {after: "Chronic Town" an EP that I had yet to hear, and the: "Radio Free Europe" single, that I was already a big fan of} was really a big feat to pull off.
"Southern Rock" bands were still big in Virginia in 1983, and R.E.M. was no Allman Brothers clone band, and at the same time these lads had no use for the white bread, synth R & B that was being thrown down our ears from London in the early 1980's.
"Murmur" is close to a mix of early Byrds and The Velvet Underground....but this is no Lou Reed, or Gene Clark, or is it?

For me, three groups define rock music for the 1980's. The first half had The Police {dead by 1986} and the second half of the decade came alive in 1987 when "The Joshua Tree" turned U2 into a world power. And R.E.M. {who were lurking in the background before the release of "Green"} This is a record, that get's the tag: "important" and the band members would be the first ones to deny such approval, as they wanted to hang out with the Punks {70's} and the Freaks {60's} and those two decades are just what defines their music. R.E.M. in 1983, was a live band that toured the South in a station wagon driven by a guy named Jefferson {listen to: "Little America" on "Reckoning"} I saw them play in Virginia Beach in 1984, with the Dream Syndicate, and it was pure punk chaos...and glorious, all in one heap. THAT, for me is: R.E.M.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2008 10:30:26 AM PST
Garbageman says:
I think you can find the set lists for all REM shows somewhere online - and look up that Dream Syndicate tour. I wasn't fortunate enough to see them until the following year, and I thought it sounded like a murky, soupy mess - and I loved every minute of it.

Posted on Nov 30, 2008 10:30:57 PM PST
Fireant3 says:
Dude, nice review. You took me back to the good old days. First time I saw R.E.M. was on 7/29/85, when I was 12. The seventh time I saw them was back in May '08 at the Hollywood Bowl. Rock on.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2008 11:00:37 PM PST
Good review, yeah

Hows the sound? I'm assuming this is remastered

I love Catapault. Great guitar on that track. Nice to hear R.E.M. rocking out now and again

Perfect Circle is an interesting track. Not sure of the lyrics on that!

Posted on Jan 7, 2009 1:01:00 PM PST
Don Eaker says:
I was going to review, but read yours first. There is seriously nothing left to say. We must have had a similar circle of friends at that time in our lives, because you brought back some serious sense-memories. Besides being spot-on with your opinions(to me, anyway), brilliant writing, Dude.

Posted on Feb 12, 2009 4:42:13 AM PST
invisiblgirl says:
Awesome, beautiful review - I don't know if it's possible to capture in text all that made this album and REM so unique, but you've come very close.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 16, 2009 3:04:07 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 26, 2009 12:00:22 AM PST
Well, Phil, in sentiment, I want to raise a Mickey's Wide Mouth high up and say I agree, but I just don't!! I guess the Police and U2, for me, technically, are late 70s bands, but yeah, they sure were big in the 80s. Define it? IDK......I think there was a lot of other crud that defined it, unfortunately.

The Police shed their punk roots fairly early on after the first album, OK, maybe Regatta De Blanc; and by the time U2 got to Joshua Tree they were working on the messianic thing, not the punk thing...that kind of ended with War in about '82 or so, let's be honest....As for REM, I think Murmur was perhaps the record that most inspired my friends and I in that period, and we caught REM in LA at the Beverly Theater in maybe October of 83, just a few months after the show captured here. My brother scored 1st row seats, how I'll never know, and some amazing herb as well, and I would have to say this was one of the most exciting, rousing, and kickin' shows I ever, ever saw. These guys were lean and hungry, they were not the poldy icons with hair extensions and tax attorneys that they later became. I also saw them in the summer of '84 with Dream Syndicate, but at the Beacon in NYC. Stipe had busted his leg earlier on the tour and sat down during the show--which I thought su-ked, to be honest. Dream Syndicate was trying to be godlike, but they were way too high, and it was just noisy puke; and don't get me wrong--I thought Day of Wine and Roses was one of the best albums of the period--not so with Medicine Show or its live incarnation. I also thought the REM record that year was weak overall, but for a few strong tunes, and certainly no Murmur; I thought maybe only Life's Rich Pageant in the later 80s approached the power and purity of Murmur AS AN ALBUM.

So, I will buy this set, as it represents, for me, REM at their best and most pure, before the bloat set in. As for what defined the 80s, unfortunately, that probably fell to Prince, Pat Benatar, Born in the USA, MJ, the soundtracks to Urban Cowboy and Arthur, Bon Jovi, and assorted Flocks of Seagulls. Even the Blondie stuff that made it big in the 80s was of the lesser ilk--Heart of Glass, Call Me, Tide is High, Rapture--we are not at Max's Kansas City or CBGB's anymore, sugar. Some great early/mid Elvis Costello (Imperial Bedroom, Get Happy, Blood & Chocolate), early Replacements (Tim, Let it Be), the Squeeze (East Side Story, Argy Bargy), XTC (Black Sea, English Settlement) couple of Talking Heads (Fear of Music, Remain in Light), Days of Wine and Roses, London Calling, and Murmur--other than that, it was a pretty dry decade for me, lots of synth and bad haircuts until we got to the La's, Stone Roses, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, my friend.

Oh, and Garbageman--yes, nice review overall. I disagree about some of the sound quality being great, though. In Radio Free Europe, in the verses--there is a ridiculously crispy hi-hat (or a maracca doubling it) that just wrecks it. When I adjusted the treble down, I lost the jangle of the Rickenbacker, so a compromise was made. Then a few tunes later, on Passion, the kick drum nearly blew my speakers out, it was so over the top--of the bottom, that is. So another eq adujstment later things were ok. Not sure if this is due to the original mix, or a screw-up in the remastering, but I don't remember this problem with my vinyl, cassette, or original cd. That was in my car, where the separation is more distinct. On the boom box, it sounded fine--very energetic and lively. I was back in my room in '83.... Also, Garbageman, you are much more civil here than in some of your replies elsewhere to other reviews of this cd. Lotta spleen, dude!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2009 1:38:51 PM PST
Harvey ~
Yeah, you raise valid points, The Police are from the late 1970's, but U2 didn't exist in that decade in any form. The eighties are all over the map in a musical sense {and a overall great 10 years for music!}
R.E.M. is my pick for greatest American band of the 1980's, hand-down. Your comments about 'the Dream Syndicate" set me back just a wee bit, as along with "The Long Ryders" & "The Plimsouls" they are one of the greats of that decade. From the UK, I go with "The Waterboys" & "XTC" and a ton of folkies that I discovered whilst living in northern Scotland from 1985-1988.

My reference to The Police & U2, is because they made musical statements AND became very popular in the record sales department. I really think "Murmur" is a great one, but "Reckoning" will always be my favorite record by the lads. Who defined the 80's? Probably: Michael Jackson & Prince {That's the two guys that sold the most vinyl} I like Bruce, and respect what he produced for this decade, with "Nebraska" & "Tunnel of Love" being my personal favorites by him. There was a lot of music in the 1980's that flew under the radar, and R.E.M. was almost one of those bands that 'missed' BUT the music was too different and good to go un-noticed. They brought many of us back to earth with those records they released between 1983-1987. They deserve to be right where they are important band that we can say came from our land...The USA.

Posted on Apr 16, 2009 7:43:02 PM PDT
Great review, bravo. Sums it all up nicely. I listened to this album a few months back after a long hiatus and it was every bit as good as I remembered it, maybe even better. That NEVER happens. Here's a combo that somehow manage to put out great stuff years after U2 and company became irrelevant, which is an amazing feat but not more amazing than "Murmur".

Posted on Nov 9, 2009 4:23:48 PM PST
mjkvol says:
Great review, hits the nail on the head.

Having been in college from '79 to '83 in the south (U. of Tennessee - Go Vols!), and working in college radio, it was the greatest time to experience truly 'alternative' music, not the commercial radio demographic it was to become.

REM came to Knoxville after "Chronic Town" and just before "Murmur" was released, and played two nights at a club on the strip where 30-50 people were there each night, and they blew the roof off the place, with Peter Holsapple opening for them and joining them during the encore of Velvet Underground and 60's garage covers. They played the whole "Murmur" album , as well as everything on the EP, and were nothing short of breathtaking, like nothing I'd seen before or would ever see, and I saw every band I had any desire to see in those days.

Saw them a couple of years later, and the "attitude" had already kicked in, with Stipe spending half the show with his back to the crowd. My opinion, of course, but as soon as that dude got a social conscience, REM was over as anything but a PC moneymaking machine.

The first four albums are still as good as rock'n'roll ever got, and "Murmur" is among the greatest debuts ever released - incredibly influential, but still as fresh-sounding and as good a listen today as the day it was released.
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