Saturday, March 24, 2007

Come On Monsters, You Don't Have To Cry!

R.E.M. Week is now officially over here at Waye's World. Yeah, I know, you never even knew it began since I haven't updated this thing in over a month. To belatedly celebrate, I suggest you put Monster in your CD player and press "Play". Why Monster? Because it seems that everyone has owned at least one copy of that album in their lifetime. And if you don't believe me, check the used bin at any CD store. I've seen more copies of that thing used than I have new, with the potential exception of the first Hootie and the Blowfish CD.

Anyway, R.E.M. Week started last Sunday when I watched the band get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I gotta admit, I was a little disappointed. I expected more from them than a bunch of generic "thank you"s. Where were the political statements? Michael Stipe mindlessly talking about windmills? Peter Buck saying something, anything? Of all the acts being inducted that night, they came across as the most professional. Which means they were dull.

Still, I had high hopes for the songs they would perform. Since I was watching a rebroadcast of the show, I already knew what they were going to play, but I still thought they'd do it with some of that classic R.E.M. energy. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. They just stood there, singing and playing their respective instruments like robots. And not the kind with super-strength, either. The kind that you see at Disney World, doing their jobs mindlessly while you float by in a boat.

At least they came alive for the finale, when they first sang "I Wanna Be Your Dog" as a duet with fellow inductee Patti Smith, and then for the mass encore when everyone in rock and roll history jammed together onstage to perform Smith's "People Have the Power". Up to that point, I would have to say it's the worst performace I've ever seen R.E.M. give. Thankfully the finale redeemed them.

(Speaking of the finale, I honestly never would have guessed that in my lifetime I would ever see Sammy Hagar, there being inducted as a member of Van Halen, singing a Patti Smith tune. And, get this, enjoying the hell out of it. Who knew the Red Rocker was a Punk Rocker?)

Midweek I bought R.E.M.'s new single on iTunes, a cover of John Lennon's "#9 Dream". The song is a pretty decent version of one of my least favorite Lennon solo tunes, but it's not kick ass enough for me to jump for joy about it. I've listened to it about a dozen times, but it's been overshadowed this week by "Synchronicity I", an old Police song. It might be sacrilige to listen to a lot of Police during R.E.M. Week, but I didn't care. "Synchronicity I" makes me happy. Plus it makes me excited for their concert that I'm seeing in July.

Tonight I watched their DVD When the Light Is Mine...The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987, which is a compilation of R.E.M.'s videos and live clips from the first five years of their career. It was back when the members of R.E.M. were ARTISTS!!! and made sure to put as much symbolism and fancy camera tricks into their videos as they could. Suffice it to say, if watching The Blair Witch Project made you want to vomit, you'll want to avoid this DVD like the plague. There's so much jerky camera moves in their early videos that I'm not even sure it was R.E.M. I was watching. Everything was a blur. The live performances were excellent, though, and provided a rare glimpse into what it must have been like to see this band when Stipe still had hair. And it's hard not to like their later videos for "The One I Love" and "It's the End of the World as We Know It". But, wow, those early videos were God awful.

So it probably reads like I had a pretty crummy R.E.M. Week. I'm not focusing on the good, which is that I've spent a lot of time this week spinning through my R.E.M. collection on my iPod. (Monster = Highly Underrated.) And Bill Berry, their original drummer, did reunite with them to play the Hall of Fame show, which was pretty cool. And "#9 Dream"'s video, which is beautiful in its simplicity. And that, even with the disappointments of the past week, I still wouldn't miss seeing them live if they came anywhere near Indianapolis. They're a hell of a band, and they deserve their own week.

Plus, I finally got to see this, which more than made up for all of last week's disappointments. Watch Peter Buck in the clip; not only does he hate this song - something he's admitted to many, many times - but he looks like he'd rather be getting a root canal than interacting with a puppet.