Day 124: R.E.M. – Murmur

2 Jul

Radio Free Europe

How I’ve never really listened to R.E.M. is beyond me.  They kind of popularized the original “indie” sound that I’ve grown to love, so it’s strange that I made it this far through my life—even this far through this project—without checking them out.

By the way, R.E.M. might be the most obnoxious band name to type out.  Try it.  You end up pressing buttons nine times, along with a fair bit of obnoxious shift key releasing.  Just thought I’d point that out.

So these guys were not the first band to have a strange sound—plenty of bands had utilized weird vocals and unconventional instrumentation before.  R.E.M. was the first, however, to gain a fair bit of notoriety for doing so.  Legend has it that they were broken by WNUR, Northwestern University’s radio station, and quickly gained popularity amongst cool teens and twenty-year-olds.  This makes sense to me, considering that they have a style similar to many popular college radio bands today.

Well, that previous sentence isn’t entirely true.  Sure, there are plenty of bands that mimic R.E.M., but I’m not referring to those exactly.  I’m talking more about bands that forge a sound of their own.  Today, we have groups like Yuck and TuNe-YaRdS (also annoying to type out)  paving the way, with sounds even further out there than R.E.M.’s.  Who knows if they’d be received as well as they are now, though, without the roads that R.E.M. paved.

By today’s standards, R.E.M. isn’t all that weird.  Yeah, Michael Stipe has a pretty strange voice, but indie listeners have learned to embrace that sort of thing.  Sure, the lyrics are kind of off kilter and difficult to interpret, but that isn’t all that rare anymore.  Back in 1983, though, I’ve been told that there was nothing quite like Murmur.

I know that I hate on influential stuff a lot, but I can’t do it with R.E.M.  As obnoxious as that name may be to type, there’s no denying that they made great early indie rock.  I can’t speak for their later releases, but Murmur kicks ass, and foreshadows the next two decades of indie music.


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