All posts tagged: R.E.M.



Good thing I didn’t let this one slip through the cracks.  This guy just doesn’t slow down – rocking harder than before and belting out ballsy numbers as if he’d led a band all his life.  I mean, he did – except not as the frontman, but as the guitarist who influenced an entire generation.  And on this, his third solo album, the aptly-titled Warzone Earth, Buck’s taking no prisoners. “It Ain’t Killing Me” is a high octane, full-throttle rock spitter that Buck unleashes with his deadpan vocal style and it just kicks hard and fast; “World Spins Around You” features Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy’s lead vocal and is gentle and emotionally charged and “Gun Shaped Heart” is an instant Stooges-styled classic with a clever chord structure of minor chords bouncing off the poppier major notes. “Saturday Sunday Monday” has a complete Jesus & Mary Chain/Velvets feel, awash in noise and heavy fuzz and yet, by virtue of the lyrics, it’s a sad and mournful track and “I Hate My Life And The Way I Live” …


What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?: R.E.M., “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”

You wore a shirt of violent green and never understood, don’t f— … hey! Whoa! What’s that supposed to mean? Greatness has often sprung from the fertile soil of Athens, Ga. The Georgia Bulldogs have provided quality football, tennis, gymnastics and tailgating for generations — Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton even grew up there and went to his hometown college. It’s been a surprise hotbed of mixed martial arts, with former UFC champion Forrest Griffin honing his skills and quips out on one of the country roads that wind their way out of town. And, of course, there’s me. But more importantly, there are the bands. College radio made cult heroes of Pylon, Love Tractor, Guadalcanal Diary, Flat Duo Jets and Dreams So Real. The scene had enough staying power for Todd Snider to reference it in Talkin’ Seattle Grunge-Rock Blues, where the protagonist finally gives up on the grunge scene, shaves off the goatees, packs the van and goes back to Athens. (In later performances, he changed the destination to places like Nashville. …


Popdose Giveaway: R.E.M. Vinyl & DVD

The R.E.M. By MTV documentary was just released on DVD and Blu-Ray and to celebrate we’ve got a special giveaway. R.E.M. By MTV is the 6th disc from REMTV, a six-disc DVD box set that the band released last year, compiled of various television performances. Including VH1 Storytellers, their Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction and numerous MTV programs. The R.E.M. By MTV DVD also includes several bonus live performances: “Find The River” – Live In Cologne, May 12, 2001 “Imitation Of Life” – Rock AM Ring, June 3, 2005 “Bad Day” – Live At Rolling Stone, Milan, March 18, 2008 “Man-Sized Wreath” – Live At Oxygen Festival, July 12, 2008 “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” – R. E.M. Live In Athens, Greece, October 5, 2008 Mike Mills and Michael Stipe are out promoting the DVD release and giving fine interviews to Entertainment Weekly and Grantland. The Giveaway: R.E.M MTV Unplugged 1991 and MTV Unplugged 2001 on vinyl. R.E.M. By MTV A movie poster How to enter: Send an email to with the subject line “I …


E.P. REVIEW: Peter Buck, “Opium Drivel”

I don’t know if Peter Buck, the fellow who played guitar in that band from Athens, Georgia, intended his third solo release to be “funny” but damn it, it is.  It’s also rockin’ and great on one side and eerily experimental but no less good on the other.  His no-bullshit approach to recording and releasing his new music is a blast – record it and get it out on vinyl only – and again, he strikes while the iron is hot.  His first two solo LPs were equally enjoyable but this new 4-song 7″ that plays at 33 (oh, how I love saying things like “33” and “LP” – the way God intended it), Opium Drivel, is just charge-ahead, rock & roll on the “B Side” and ethereal and enveloping on the “B B side”. Kicking into immediate high gear with “Portrait Of A Sorry Man”, Buck’s deadpan dry vocals reel off a list of regrets around a motoring riff which yields to a straight-time beat/rhythm and power chords – and catchy lyrics (“…I’m sorry …


The 2014 Music Notable Awards!

Yes, I’ve already run down my picks for the year’s standout albums, my 2014 mixtape suggestions and my ratings for new albums by artists over 50. But that’s not everything that graced our earbuds this past year. Herewith, then, are the winners of the first annual Music Notable Awards, otherwise known as the stuff that didn’t fit in any other category. • Notable Performance By A Dead Person: Johnny Cash, “Out Among The Stars.” • Notable Performance By Two Dead People: Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, “Baby Ride Easy,” the standout track from that album. • Notable Use Of A Hologram: The vinyl edition of “Lazaretto” by Jack White (which also features one side that plays from the middle out; mind = blown). • Notable Revival Of The Phrase “Ooga-Chucka”: “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix No. 1.” • Notable Unexpected Sex Reference Leading To Parental Embarrassment: “Don’t,” Ed Sheeran. • Notable Surprise Live Album: Kingsley Flood, “Live at the Armory.” • Notable Live Album You’d Be Forgiven For Thinking Was Recorded In An Ice …


BOXSET REVIEW: R.E.M., “7 IN – 83 – 88” (vinyl singles collection)

As it stands, the R.E.M. nostalgia/reissues campaign hasn’t slowed a bit, although this is definitely one for the completist/hardcore fan – and I should preface this by saying I certainly am one (I do have my original I.R.S. purchases of “Radio Free Europe”, “So. Central Rain” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” – not counting the three 12-inch U.K. singles I have as well…).  So it is that the people at I.R.S. have reissued the 45’s released by R.E.M. during their years on the label in their original picture sleeves and labels.  They’ve sweetened the pot a little by including the U.K.-only double pack single of “Wendell Gee” (which I always thought was an odd choice for a single release overseas).  Credit for that inclusion.  BUT…  because I am a traditionalist, they lose points for the simple lack of getting the color correct on the sleeve for the single of “Radio Free Europe” which was brown/tan, not black & white/grey.  If you’re going to do it, do it 100%, you know?  That oversight seems a …


DVD REVIEW: R.E.M., “R.E.M. By MTV” (6 disc set)

It’s already three years since Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe officially announced the end of R.E.M. as a band (after a 30-year run as a recording unit and 14 years after drummer Bill Berry had left the group) but yet, it doesn’t feel like they’ve ceased to exist at all.  We’ve seen the 25th anniversary releases of Document and Green; Peter Buck’s two solo albums and the sanctioned issuing of the band’s performances on MTV’s “Unplugged” as a 2-disc set.  And there is still more to come. For the moment, MTV, in conjunction with Rhino, have now culled their archives to deliver R.E.M. By MTV, a six DVD collection, which includes most of R.E.M.’s appearances on MTV and MTV-aligned programs (at this point in time, shows owned by Viacom/CBS, such as the band’s appearance on “The Colbert Report” and Nickelodeon’s “Livewire”, are part of the package).  There are 6 live concerts, VMA appearances – both in the United States and Europe – and “classic” programs such as “I.R.S.’s The Cutting Edge” and the …


CD REVIEW: R.E.M., “Unplugged: 1991/2001 – The Complete Sessions”

For so many, R.E.M. was one of the most important bands to come along since The Beatles; they helped redefine and reshape the musical landscape, starting in the early ’80’s and lasting a total of 31 years, until their announced dissolution in September, 2011.  Being that there is a great wealth of unreleased R.E.M. material in the music vaults, this double CD set (or 4-lp set, if you were able to obtain one on Record Store Day) is the natural first “new” release.  These recordings from MTV Unplugged have been circulating as bootlegs for years, but here now are the complete performances. The first disc is the earlier session, which broadcast on MTV in early 1991, just as the band had issued Out Of Time, their global best-seller (and first #1 album/#1 single with “Losing My Religion”); it was R.E.M. truly at the height of their success and musical/popular powers.  So when the show first aired, it was highly anticipated and well-received.  From that first airing, the highlights were (most famously) the band’s cover of …


ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Buck, “I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again”

I was as surprised as anyone when it was announced in early 2012 that Peter Buck would be releasing a solo album and even more surprised that he would be singing.  As the guitarist for R.E.M. after 31 years, it was quite a turnaround, and truth be told, I was very skeptical.  The resulting debut was a neat, garage-spirited collection which I (overall) liked.  Now Buck returns with this second solo album, I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again, and again, it’s another fun gathering of friends and rawkin’.  And like the first release, this is ALBUM only, through the folks at Mississippi Records. Opening with “Ride That Road”, the guitar figure is infectious as the song is wrapped around a strong melody.  With Buck’s Tom Waits-like vocal and boogie piano, it’s a good way to kick off proceedings.  “Life Is Short” is reminiscent of  “Sweet Jane”; with introspective lyrics and nice harmonies/backing vocals, it’s an early pleaser and the quasi-backwards guitar solo is tasty.  “You Must Fight To Live On The Planet …


The Popdose Interview: Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet may not be the king of pop – the title was pretty much taken before he was ever in contention – but he certainly knows his way around a pop song, and he’s proved it plenty of times over, both as a solo artist and in his choice of covers for the series of albums he’s done with Susanna Hoffs over the past few years. Under the Covers, Volume 3 hits stores on November 12, giving Sweet and Hoffs a chance to venture in the ’80s with their song selection this time around, but it’s also given Popdose a chance to chat with Mr. Sweet a bit more (you may recall that he and Hoffs answered your questions when we spoke to them in conjunction with Volume 2), quizzing him about his ties to R.E.M. and digging as deeply into his back catalog as time would allow. Popdose: So after the success of the first two volumes, was Under the Covers Volume 3 always a given, or was there any hesitation? Matthew Sweet: …


Book Review: R.E.M.: Perfect Circle – Tony Fletcher

Originally released in 1990 as Remarks:  The Story Of R.E.M. (and subsequently updated, minus the photos, as Remarks Remade in 2002), Perfect Circle is the fitting, final written chapter of R.E.M.’s 31-year story.  Tony Fletcher puts together the Athens band’s history through their own words, well researched press and interviews with many of the band’s collaborators, producers and co-conspirators.  This band that paved the foundation for what became tagged as “alternative American rock” in the 1980’s wound up becoming one of the most celebrated bands in history (I wouldn’t dispute that).  For all the praise and hyperbole heaped upon R.E.M. over the years, there’s a lot of humanity, warmth and good nature in the stories of the band, their exploits and the discernible pride when discussing their music.  Even right down to the 1997 departure of drummer Bill Berry and the remaining trio’s decision to announce their final split in 2011, R.E.M. were always “a group” – unified.  And that’s a rarity in any age.


Album Review: R.E.M., “Green (25th Anniversary Edition)”

In revisiting Green, I have to remove myself from the R.E.M.-worshiper that I was in the ’80’s; I was younger and a bit more crassly idealistic.  Having not cared for Document, the 1987 monster hit album, I fully expected to not like Green, which was the case.  However, this isn’t 1988 and I’m not that same younger man.  While I still don’t like Document, I do think time has been more favorable to Green.  There are stronger songs on this album; it holds together far more cohesively than its predecessor.  More importantly, over the years, there are songs on Green that I genuinely like and enjoy hearing again.  I’ll start with my personal favorite from this collection, the exquisite “Get Up”.  Catchy, well-crafted, melodic with a wonderful chorus/counter-chorus; Stipe singing “dreams, they complicate my life” as Bill Berry responds with “dreams, they compliment my life” and a harmony on each bridge that reminds me of Pink Floyd’s “It Would Be So Nice”.  “You Are The Everything” is one of R.E.M.’s loveliest ballads as Peter Buck’s …


Drews & Don’ts: The Top 7 Great Unheralded Albums By Oft-Heralded Artists

Every Wednesday, music nerd and serial list-maker Drew brings you a small, highly specific, pop culture-related list to either enjoy or inspire debate. He remains the only Popblerd staffer pretentious enough to name a column after himself. First things first: these aren’t necessarily the most underrated albums of all time. That’s a different column for a different day, and for my money, would probably be populated with a fairly tiresome amount of Boston bands (still the liveliest music city I’ve […]


Boxed In: The Top Music Reissues of 2012

Every year, while lording over an impressive amount of music catalogue news and views at my site, The Second Disc, I think the same thing at the end of every year: this is it. This is the year the reissue/remaster/repackage trend gets too outsized for the marketplace. Once again, I am wrong. Are major and indie labels getting smarter and more ambitious about what to re-release and how to release it? Are aging hipsters and Gen-Xers, with their considerable gobs of disposable income, more apt to re-buy the same seminal albums they grew up with, plus a bonus disc of rarities and outtakes? Yes and yes – and yet, none of those are solely why catalogue music is more robust than ever. 2012 has seen a lot of catalogue titles that seem too big for the modern music business. Thanks to sites like U.K. blog SuperDeluxeEdition, value-added packaging and other flights of consumer fancy are more fetishized over now than when I first took serious notice of the trend. But what most deluxe packaging sometimes hides is …

Los Lobos - photo credit: Drew Reynolds

The Popdose Interview: Steve Berlin of Los Lobos

As music fans, bands find their way into our song-obsessed hearts in a variety of ways and some of the best experiences come about very unexpectedly. I think we all have those early albums that we remember hearing that were different. They were different, because top to bottom, the listening experience provided a sonic knockout because of the quality of the songs and in some cases, where the band took those songs. Kiko by Los Lobos hit the mark on both of those points. Spanning 16 tracks, it was a remarkably filler-free listen that found the band reaching new creative peaks throughout. Los Lobos were extremely inspired during the recording sessions for Kiko and that comes through in the vibe of the songs which made it to our ears in album form. And yet, it wasn’t an easy time for the band. They began the sessions for what would become Kiko surrounded by feelings of frustration. The creation of their previous album The Neighborhood had been somewhat of a soul sucking experience on many levels …