Eearlier this month, REM announced that they were breaking up. That is: after being over 30 years in the music industry, the three band members decided that:
“Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together”
Today’s ‘Past The Bridge’ entry, (musically) encompasses the band’s earlier years perfectly: So. Central Rain (35+ seconds). I refrained from using their more popular works as I believe that everything went downhill after their ‘Out of Time’ LP/CD. Sure, ‘Everybody hurts’ sounds pretty and ‘consumable’ but it’s over-engineered and over-done. Compare that to their earlier works, were Stipe’s lyrics, superimposed on the band’s simple chord structure, created songs people still don’t understand today. That is the brilliance and timelessness of ‘So Central Rain’ and for that matter, all songs on their album “Reckoning”.
I ran into REM during Stipe’s infamous contribution to KRS-One’s HEAL project (earlier) and KRS-One’s contribution to REM’s “Radio Song” (YouTube, another brilliant song). This was in a time where the band slowly started to become the focus of attention, which skyrocketed after their ‘Automatic’ CD. The rest is fairly history: I lost interest and found other music I cared for. In my opinion, REM never recovered their artistic skills after ‘Automatic’. Maybe that’s the curse of commercialization. Maybe not. Who cares.
I read that the ozone layer depletion has been halted: this week, UN scientists published a report that the ozone layer should restore itself by 2050. This reminded me of one of the most obscure collaborations in musical history between singer Michael Stipe and rapper KRS-One, which is a song, or rather, an agitprop rap, warning against the dangers of the depletion of the ozone layer, commonly attributed to the use of CFCs and industrial pollution. The general consensus is that the 1987 ban on CFC production contributed to the slowing down of the depletion.
Which brings us to today’s ‘Past The Bridge’ posting, the track ‘Civilization vs. Technology’ which features Harmony, Jane Scarpantoni, KRS-One and Michael Stipe (
30+ sample mp3). I’m extremely mixed about this song (or rap): it’s the better track of the record with the same name, but, the production of it seems half-baked. The excellent use of cello (Scarpantoni) sounds fragmented. The same can be said for the lyrics: Stipe’s contribution is fairly limited (but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wrote the majority of the lyrics). The song slightly veers back on rails during the second verse and after but, yeah, the overall result is half-baked.
So, while I don’t think Michael Stipe and KRS actually stopped the ozone layer from depletion personally, they do deserve credit for creating awareness: I don’t think too many artists have raised this issue in the 80s or 90s. That is, not that I can remember. It’s a kind of sad that the rest of the tracks on the Heal project’s ‘Civilization vs. Technology’ album are of such dubious quality that they make the contributions from Billy Bragg, Ziggy Marley, Michael Stipe and Tina Weymouth fall into obscurity. Good intentions (generally speaking) but bad execution.
add1: HEAL project previously discussed on xsamplex