I really do think Great Lakes’ rock side might sound something like those old R.E.M. records. But the comparison’s probably fresh because of this new set on Capitol, And I feel fine...The best of the IRS years 1982-1987. From the opening notes of “Begin the Begin” to “Finest Worksong,” to the Reckoning stuff, it’s creepy how fresh all of this sounds. What’s more, it’s creepy how, in my brain, it doesn’t relate at all to the last decade of R.E.M., and certainly not to that aloof, somewhat foppish Michael Stipe that appears now and again on Sundance Channel to try on linen shirts and hang his head about human rights. I don’t have a problem with that Michael Stipe, or his championing of linen shirts and human rights. It’s just that, in my brain, I like the frizzy-haired guy on the cover of this retrospective better, the one who looks and sounds like the guy at your college who favored a straw porkpie and always brought red wine with no label to the keg party.
IRS-era R.E.M. had an effortless sense of woodshedding creativity, genre interpretation, and knowledge of musical history that bands today can only hope to copy. They sounded southern, English, punk, Brill Building, obscure, and country all at once, and that’s what makes the feelings this set bring out much more than generic nostalgia. The proof is in listening, and I still don't like the Arcade Fire.
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