December 6, 2009
Welcome to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses 1995, those crazy workhorses in R.E.M., the blessed union of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, and the slew of tragic musician deaths that hit the world halfway through the nineties. For earlier installments, go here.
Perhaps I was a tad too hard on Hole last week. In January 1995, former “college rock” darlings R.E.M. embarked on a massive world tour to support Monster, their hard-rockin’-est album since Green, their 1988 Warner Bros. debut (and their first tour in six years). Less than two months later, drummer Bill Berry suffered an aneurysm onstage in Lausanne, Switzerland. Shows were postponed, and the tour ultimately resumed (friends of mine attended when the band came to Detroit in May, but I missed it for some reason), but R.E.M. were plagued with more and more problems as the tour ran on: bassist Mike Mills had to undergo abdominal surgery to remove an intestinal adhesion in July, while singer Michael Stipe had to undergo emergency hernia surgery the following month. Berry ultimately left the band in October 1997, citing lack of enthusiasm for pop stardom. The band has soldiered on as a trio, to middling commercial and critical success, acting mostly as a vehicle to play R.E.M.’s (more popular) back catalog.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. R.E.M. still trundle out decent records every few years, and their fans remain happy. Never having played in front of even one stadium full of people, let alone playing stadiums night after night for years, I cannot begin to imagine the incredible pressure that must have squeezed these people to the point of exhaustion. And then I think about the amount of money, man hours and preparation spent in getting a band of R.E.M.’s caliber on the road, and I cannot remain unhappy with that band’s decision to soldier on through health crises, nor can I fault any member of the band for deciding to quit or keep going. A gigantic rock band like R.E.M. is ultimately responsible for a lot more peoples’ livelihoods than their own, so a lot more than “somebody doesn’t feel good,” (or in Berry’s case, somebody’s on death’s door) has to be taken into account.
I do sort of wish, though, that the members of R.E.M. who kept going would make albums that compared to Automatic for the People, though. I’m not just a little tired of these big bands putting out albums and their fans going, “Have you heard the new (Insert fading Gen X band name here) album? It’s not bad!”
Not bad=not good, people. Please don’t forget that.
More on #12: 1995
Watch Video For Fever Ray’s Cover of Nick Cave’s “Stranger Than Kindness,” Which Is Scarier Than Either The Strangers, Dr. Strange, or Quark-Based Strange Matter (Only Barely, Though…That Shit Is Mysterious) [Gorilla vs. Bear]
In Other Fever Ray News, She’s Giving Away a Live Version of Her Self-Titled Debut With This Weeks The Guardian In the U.K….Good News For Those In The UK. Bad News For Us Running New York Based Music Blog [NME]
Josh Homme/Dave Grohl/John Paul Jones Supergroup Them Crooked Vultures Announce Album Details; Self-Titled LP Released November 17, Containing Song Called “An Interlude With Ludes” Which is Such a Dated and Awesome Drug Reference That I’m Red Faced With Joy [Pitchfork]
R.E.M., Rage Against the Machine, and Pearl Jam Push For Closure of Guantanamo Bay, Joining The Rest of Rational Americans Who Believe Torture Is Even A Little Not Cool [BBC]
Hold Steady Frontman/Promoter of All Things Positive Craig Finn, To Co-Adapt Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City Into a Movie; Finn Says of the Subject: “I’m Writing a Screenplay/ Camera, Lights, and Clever Kids Getting Action, Bab-ay/ I Hope The Oscars Recall It Fairly Fondly” [Idolator]
Former Island Records Boss Marc Marot Wants a Clause in Record Contracts That Allows Record Labels To Intervene When Artists Are Suffering Drug Problems; Next Year, Labels Set to Introduce “Nap Time” Clause, Requiring All Artists To Take 20-Minuter Whenever Label Deems Them “Cranky” [NME]
Watch Video For Weezer’s “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” Off Upcoming LP Ratitude; It’s Very 1950s-Chic; Meanwhile, Rivers Is Probably Knee-Deep in a Melding of the Minds With Katy Perry Right Now [Babelgum]
compiled by Max Sebela
R.E.M. Reveal Details for Live at the Olympia Album [Pitchfork]
Built To Spill Reveals Tracklist, Cover Art for New Album, There Is No Enemy [Pitchfork]
Weezer Sinks Even Lower With Incredibly Stupid Album Title [Pitchfork]
Luckily Some People Are Good With Nomenclature. Looks Like There’s A Sampler Out From Ghostface’s Wizard Of Poetry! [Prefix]
Murdered: Samuel Ferguson, Journalist Who Broke Rick Ross Correctional Officer Story [Prefix]
Online Retailer Insound Collaborates With Designer Mike Perry To Create “Insound 10 Classic,” A Series Of Products Featuring Bands Spanning From The Voidoids to The Promise Ring [The Tripwire]
Seems Like Weezer’s Creating An Uproar. SPIN Lists Their Picks For Worst Album Titles Of 2009…Thus Far. (Say What You Will, SPIN. I Think I Love The Name Stretch Your Skull Cover And Smile) [SPIN]
by Erin Sheehy
Virgin Megastore Closing Brings Us St. Vincent [Brooklyn Vegan]
Nine Inch Nails App Rejected by Apple, But Reznor’s Getting Married! [Prefix]
Tupac Twin or the Real Thing? [The Tripwire]
Fiery Furnaces Back in the Fray [Brooklyn Vegan]
Another Sweet 90s Revival [Prefix]
Coldplay, Get Your Copyrighting Straight [The Tripwire]
New Music Preview: The Cool Kids “Popcorn” MP3 [Prefix]
R.E.M. Reissue [Pitchfork]
Dark Was the Night Does It Right [Stereogum]
Britney Fans Getting All “Crazy” On Her [NME]
compiled by Elana Jacobs
February 18, 2009
HOLY MUSICIAN, BATMAN…
This column, to me, is meant to be a look at someone’s talents that my go unnoticed on an average listen, but who truly add to a song in ways both unexpected and irreplaceable – with, of course, a focus on the technical side of musicianship, without dismissing creativity, and docking points for musical masturbation. If that is indeed our verbose mission statement, then Mike Mills of R.E.M., not for his bass playing, but his backing vocals, deserves an article more than most.
Now, I am sure many of you are thinking that backing vocals are not necessarily a skill necessitating an entire article. You’re wrong. When backing vocals are this distinctive, creative, melodic and interesting, they certainly justify a few hundred words.
More on Finest Workman: Mike Mills