Wednesday, February 22, 2006


From the AP:

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and REM frontman Michael Stipe will headline a New York concert to urge the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

I hope Sheehan opens her set with "World Leader Pretend."


Blogger Dezmond said...

I almost feel sorry for her regarding her continual embarrassment before a national audience, but she is so irritating that I can't quite get myself to feel too bad for her. I will grant Sheehan this: her 15 minutes she got through exploitation of her kid's demise has been stretched further than I thought possible. But if she's one of the best poster children that the Left can muster, we have nothing to worry about. I hope the Dems feature her prominently in the 2008 election. In fact, she should give the key note address at their convention. Bush and Co. give them the keys to the kingdom with all of their bad moves, but the Dems are so inept they have no clue how to take advantage.

10:12 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Whoa, easy there, lone ranger. I was just making a stupid joke about a rock concert. Let's save the heavier analysis and partisan bickering for further along in the cycle (I just can't bear the thought of almost three years of talking-headedness about the '08 election).

10:24 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

Sorry. But Sheehan irritates me, kinda like that cockroach you just can't kill because it keeps running into the cracks whenever it is directly challenged. She is like the puppet on the strings, and about as bright. All emotion, no reason. Have you ever listened to her attempt to speak and make sense beyond a quick soundbite?

But I can address the other side of your post as well. What is up with REM in the last ten years? I know you are a diehard fan, but these have been bleak years, you must admit. Will they ever right the ship, or are they truly done? I often wonder whether an artist (such as Stipe and the others) realize that they are not producing great music anymore. That must be depressing. I'm not only attacking REM, I wonder this about lots of artists, even some of my own favorites when they obviously start to slump. Are they aware that they now suck?

We have had this discussion many times, but I feel (in fact, maybe you first said it and I agree with you) that generally an artist (at least in music) only has about a decade of great work in them. The rest is repetition or failed attempts at growth. That is not to say that they don't occasionally come across greatness here and there in their later years, but it is only fleeting, rarely are they creating brilliant records from start to finish anymore. Agree? Can you think of exceptions?

Neil Young comes to mind, but really, 1968-79 was when he was truly, consistently great. 1989's 'Freedom' is a brilliant exception, but other than that, his records since have been terrible to spotty to merely good. And he's the only possible exception that immediately comes to mind.

Stones? 1964-73 is why we really care about them, then tack on 'Some Girls' in '78.

Look at the Beatles. They accomplished EVERYTHING from 1963-70. Less than a decade.

OK. Miles Davis. There's one who remained vital and amazing for over a decade. There's one.

11:43 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Two things happened: Stipe went from being pretentious-but-essentially-humble to somewhat unbearable as a public figure. But more importantly, they lost Bill Berry. They had always said that if one member quit, they would close up shop as a band, and they should have. I don't know what he brought to the songwriting table that was so irreplaceable, but since he left, each album has been worse than the last. I hold out hope, of course, but only a sliver. In a sense, I think they're not THAT far from Springsteen or Young, who keep getting credit for putting out solid work, but it's pretty average stuff.

But I can't complain. I can never remember the exact wording, and I don't have it anymore, but some British magazine a couple of years ago said something like: If you make one great album, you've done more than most bands; if you make two or three, you're in the hall of fame; if you make five or six, you're REM.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

They will be eligible for the Rock Hall of Fame in 2008.

Stipe has fallen into the same trap as Springsteen lately: thinking that their status as rock gods makes them political sages. Not so, I don't need some dude who barely finished high school (Springsteen) discussing the nuances of foreign policy and how I should feel about the war. Although, he's better than Sheehan.

I agree with you on Neil and Bruce, although I don't think their drop in quality has been as severe as that of REM. They both have slid into comfortable mediocrity, whereas REM is almost unlistenable to me at this point. But you are right, they all get undeserved praise for their recent endeavors. Neil's "Prairie Wind" was pleasant but lightweight and his "Greendale" was half-baked meandering Crazy Horse. Springsteen's latest acoustic endeavor "Devils and Dust" was a really mixed bag in quality and "The Rising" had a couple of his best songs in over a decade but had tons of filler as well and was unjustly praised as a latterday masterpiece by many critics.

4:27 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

In fairness, you were never as into REM at their peak as you were with Bruce and Neil, so it makes sense that you find them realtively worse than B&N now.

The politics is a separate thing. Stipe just turned into a really bad lyricist, and his voice isn't as lively as it used to be, either. On the early records, it didn't matter as much what he was saying, but the words still had a certain elliptical charm. Now they're just bland.

It's time like these when I realize the blog is a lot like taking people in a time machine to a table at our dining hall in college. Except back then, REM was still making great records.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

Like 'Monster'?

10:12 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Very funny.

Automatic for the People was released our freshman year. And yes, Monster wasn't great, but it had a handful of very good songs that were way better than anything on the last three records.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

I grant you that. Actually, there are several tunes on 'Monster' I still really like. And the great forgotten REM album, 'New Adventures in Hi-Fi', I thought was really outstanding. I think that was the last great REM record.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

Memory Lane time: Remember the Apple Records on San Pedro that we used to go to ALOT while in college? Now they are part of the CD Exchange used CD chain, but they still have an excellent selection. I was in SA this weekend and dropped by. The point with this conversation, though, is that they had about 50 copies of 'Monster'. I think I saw more copies of 'Monster' in the used rack than any other CD.

10:29 AM  

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