[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]R.E.M.[/lastfm] is still broken up and Michael Stipe is still getting older, adding another notch to his tribal birthday belt by turning 52 today. Let’s consider the top 10 R.E.M. songs of all time.
#10. “Leaving New York” (from Around the Sun)
Yeah, Around the Sun generally sucked. But if this song had been recorded 10 years earlier it would be considered a classic today.
#9. “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” (from Automatic for the People)
For the simple reason that he invented the word “cullajawake-a,” whatever the hell that means.
#8. “Exhuming McCarthy” (from Document)
Typing in tempo, layers of noises and the great Stipe lyrics: “Sharpening stones, walking on coals to improve your business acumen.” It’s a sign of the times.
#7 “Driver 8” (from Fables of the Reconstruction)
“Walls are built up stone by stone, hills divided one by one.” Paste that over a jangling train song and have them punch your ticket.
#6. “World Leader Pretend” (from Green)
Green was probably their least appreciated record and “World Leader Pretend” a hidden gem. “I sit at my table and wage war on myself.” Indeed.
Sounds good done loudly, too.
#5. “Superman” (from Life’s Rich Pageant)
We used to sing this one at the top of our lungs around the bar, about 20 minutes before closing time. Imagine this at full volume: “I am, I am, I am superman and I can do anything.”
#4. “Radio Free Europe” (from Murmur)
Thin as a string, powerful as a cobweb. It’s the one that captured us in ’83.
The next three originally appeared in an older post naming the Three Best R.E.M. Songs (published 9/23/11, with assistance from my 10.5 year old son, Skyler).
#3 “Supernatural, Superserious” (from Accelerate)
Young Fusion 10.5 was unequivocal in his opinion, claiming “Supernatural, Superserious” should land at Number 3 on the list. “Really cool guitar, really weird lyrics,” were his observations. For him, it’s the song that introduced him to the band. For me, it shows the band had returned to form so I can’t disagree too vehemently.
#2 “Cuyahoga” (from Life’s Rich Pageant)
Fusion 10.5 (also known as Sky) voted for “Exhuming McCarthy” as the second best R.E.M. song, an admirable choice for it’s acute portrayal of political paranoia (not at all out of fashion, I might mention). But, I used my seniority to overrule him, pointing to “Cuyahoga” as a universally better song. I prefer it for its edgy instrumentation: its feel like a powerful river that runs through childhood, the rapids that carry us into adulthood too quickly. (I got a blank stare from Sky with that description.)
#1 “Fall on Me” (also from Life’s Rich Pageant)
Fusion 10.5 and Fusion 45 are in complete agreement here. “Fall on Me” is the most intensely-beautiful 2 minutes and 50 seconds in the R.E.M. repertoire. Though Michael Stipe has at various times said the song is about causes and/or oppression and/or the environment, the beauty of the lyrics is that they’re completely open to interpretation. Musically, Stipe has never sung better and Mike Mills counter melody is without parallel. A song of which I’ve never tired … and a beautiful video, too.