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Thursday, July 31, 2008

GMVW # 30: "Democracy in the Studio"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 30:  Democracy in the Studio
Song:  What’s the Frequency Kenneth by R.E.M.
(Songwriter: Michael Stipe)
July 31, 2008

I would think it’s an honor to a band when their music is identified as representing a particular genre: Punk = The Clash; Reggae = Bob Marley; Glam Rock = Bowie; Grunge = Nirvana; Folk = Joan Baez; and so on.

Then there are the bands that don’t quite fit any niche.  These bands are just as likely to be revolutionary, and are consistently evolving their sound.  R.E.M. is one of these bands.  They are not easily categorized which is one of the main reasons R.E.M., more than any other band, have carried the Rock n Roll torch thru the 90’s and into this century.  Their songs, albums, and live sound all stand up to any comparison. 

R.E.M. has always had a complex studio sound, but somehow can pull it off live.  Converting a studio sound to the stage has been the downfall of many bands over the years:  Several that come to mind are The Cars, Boston, Yes, and Alan Parsons Project.  A typical R.E.M. concert will see them dig at most 3 albums deep into their war chest.  They are not about reminiscing, and like to keep current (they were one of the very last long-term successful music acts to release a greatest hits album).  So, if you are catching a show and are enjoying the most recent album release, you are all set.  I’ve had a chance to see them 3 times, two of which immediately followed my favorite R.E.M. albums: Monster and Up.  The shows were fantastic (the Up show was a great birthday gift from brother, Pat).

I believe that one of the main reasons R.E.M. is so successful is that the band is balanced talent wise.  They are also balanced in their decision making.   This is rare for a band and it’s been fun to see how it has played out over the years as it’s impossible to get a sense on who is leading and who is following.  Finally, R.E.M. as a band seems free of the pressures of fame and conformity more so than most musicians, giving them a limitless palate to work on.  This is not so hard to find in individual musicians (Dylan, N. Young, Tom Waits).  It is very hard to find in an entire band.

One of the songs I found impressive for R.E.M to pull off live was ‘What’s the Frequency Kenneth’, off the Monster album, hence its choice as this week’s Gem Video.  The lyrics are obscure (as many R.E.M. lyrics are) but to me that's no biggie...the energy, originality, and bass lines are enough in this case.

Because it’s a heavy rock song, I’m also including a great Gem Light video ‘Day Sleeper’ off the Up album. 

 ‘nuff said’

- Pete

* There may be a short (20 secs) add previewed before these videos since they are both from a VH1 site (which runs adds).

Gem Music Video: What’s the Frequency Kenneth (VH1 site: you have to register)

Day Sleeper

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About the Video: Made for MTV video (as is the Gem Light).

Video Rating: 1

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Best Feedback: Madelline:

Hey, you are so fun doing this while on the Cape!

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