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R.E.M.'s Murmur (33 1/3) Paperback – April 28, 2005
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Mentioned –Philadelphia Weekly
“…Murmur is a lovingly rendered, well-researched look at R.E.M’s album of the same name, a gothic-tinged anomaly that seemed to come out of nowhere amid the New Wave avalanche of the early‘80s…illuminating.” –Cincinnati City Beat, May 2005
“I’ll leave the in-depth analysis of the record to Niimi, but trust me, this is a title worth reading more about...even if you still hate R.E.M. for unleashing that debacle called “Shiny Happy People.” –Radio Free Chicago, May 2005
"…the book does a good job of bringing the reader into the world of R.E.M. and the circumstances surrounding their official full-length debut album which changed the music world. A must-read for fans." — Mish Mash Music Reviews, July 2005 (Mish Mash Music Reviews)
“…the book goes a considerable distance towards explaining how this enduringly astonishing album happened.” –Uncut, October 2005 (Uncut)
"…the book does a good job of bringing the reader into the world of R.E.M. and the circumstances surrounding their official full-length debut album which changed the music world. A must-read for fans." — Mish Mash Music Reviews, July 2005 (Sanford Lakoff)
About the Author
J. Niimi writes about music for the Chicago Reader, SPIN, City Pages, and SF Weekly, among other publications. In previous years he worked as a studio engineer, recorded eight albums as the drummer of Ashtray Boy, and hosted a weekly radio show on WHPK. He lives in Chicago with his wife and their two border terriers.
Top Customer Reviews
Mr. Niimi captured the record's weird and intangible magic, not
an easy feat. He did a particularly good job examining Bill Berry's
unusual playing style and incalculable contribution to not
only R.E.M.'s sound but compositions. Even though Niimi himself is a drummer, he explains things in a manner any non-musician will appreciate.
He also got some great quotes out of producers Don Dixon and Mitch
Easter as he delved into the details of the making of the record. Along the way he tells the terrific story of R.E.M.s rapid rise from Athens bar band to architects of the college rock, indie rock explosion of the '80s.
I followed R.E.M. very closely in this time frame and the author captures the feeling and emotional impact that R.E.M. had on its fans quite well. The book brought back many good memories. I highly recommend it to both the casual and serious R.E.M. fan.
After reading the book I put the record on and, after wading through the inevitable waves of nostalgia, rediscovered a great band and record that I haven't listened to for far too long.
Niimi is at home in the recording studio, and provides a blow by blow account of the production details. I'd recommend reading it as you listen to the album - details buried in the song will emerge that you hadn't notice before. Throughout, we get a sense of the band's breathtaking originality and willingness to take risks. Buck and Stipe's contributions are well-known, but Niimi highlights the unique contributions of less obvious figures. Mitch Easter's production flourishes are all over the album, and are responsible for much of its unique, timeless quality; Easter and Don Dixon's song sequencing gives the album a strong, novelistic flow; and Bill Berry emerges as the unsuing genius of R.E.M., as composer and multi-instrumentalist.
I've read a number of books in the 33 1/3 series, and to my mind they should all be like this one. When you love an album, you want to get into it as deeply as you can. Niimi's meticulously-researched, vividly written work says all that needs to be said about the album and its unique place in rock history.
On one hand, there's the crisp organization. This compact book is broken into four chapters that provide in efficient succession (1) crucial background information on the band and the album, especially the technical aspects of the latter's production; (2) a song-by-song and line-by-line perspective on an album whose expressionistic and often absurdist lyrics are famously difficult to understand and/or to ascertain; (3) a reading of (and, perhaps more importantly, "a listening to") the album that emphasizes ideas of the sublime and positions this work of musical art as an instance of the Southern Gothic impulse as filtered through the ephemera of the 1980s; and (4) a second reading of the album that accents the semiotic and the linguistic, examining MURMUR and its lyrics through, among other things, the lens of Walker Percy's essay "Metaphor as Mistake." There is also a very useful appendix in which Mr. Niimi supplies and in some cases reconstructs the album's lyrics. If you like the album, this appendix is worth the cost of the book.
I have little patience for baggy monsters and loose piles of crud prefaced by a title page and, less often, a preface. Mr. Niimi's organization is, happily, nothing if not tight and craftmanlike--no bags, no monsters, no crud. But what is most admirable about Mr. Niimi's structure is that it acts as a control on the very best aspect of the author's book, i.e.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fantastic reading - amazing how many stories / anecdotes about a single LP!Published 2 months ago by Happy in Atlanta
This was kind of a disappointing book. It consists more of the authors' music criticism of the albumand other writing, such as his musings on the cassette tape. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Godfrey L. Gattiker
I appreciated the historical context the author provided for the album. The techniques used to create the sound of the album was wonderfully illustrated. Read morePublished 9 months ago by T. Speirs
By far the best parsing of a recording I've read and I'm really, really old (53). The analysis of the studio intricacies is wonderful and satisfying. Keep up the good work, J. Read morePublished 11 months ago by George W. Davis
A intriguing and quirky book about an intriguing and quirky album. The story behind "Radio Free Europe" and how the album came to be is a great read. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Brad Kyker
This is a thoughtful, thoroughly engrossing "close reading/listening" of a music album, tackling the art, the lyrics, and the music systematically. Read morePublished on September 26, 2013 by Eliphas Levi