Playing God With R.E.M.'s Up

By: J. Edward Keyes

Posted 09/26/2005 - 09:28:59 AM by wmdavidson:
 I can't believe you dropped "Airportman" and "Suspicion" but kept "Hope."
Posted 09/26/2005 - 09:40:51 AM by thepuffin:
 I have always thought that there was a great album in Up, buried somewhere. JEK's version is one of the few Playing God articles that I haven't completely disagreed with. It's not the route, I'd take, but I can see where he was going with it. Personally, In my sequencing of the Up, I would leave off Daysleeper and Lotus, due to these two being the most REM-like songs on the album. They distract from the style change that Up provides. I'd have to put the beautiful Suspicion back in rotation. I actually think that Airportman works as an opener. My sequence: A-side - Airportman, Walk Unafraid, Suspicion, You're in the Air, Falls to Climb. B-side - Hope, At My Most Beautiful, The Apologist, Diminished, Parakeet.
Posted 09/26/2005 - 11:04:10 AM by mlesseraux:
 2 Things: 1- Good for you for sticking up for Up. It is a very good record. 2- Listen to and read along with "Airportman" again. The song is deeply haunting. This type of Enoesque minimalism is very rarely pulled off with as much grace and poignancy.
Posted 09/26/2005 - 08:34:35 PM by TheBrad:
 "Lotus" is the best R.E.M. song ever.
Posted 09/26/2005 - 08:42:17 PM by timellison:
 I'm going to dissent here and say that the problem with Up is not that it's too long. Every song on it is OK for what it is and choosing to edit this song or that might be a bit of hairsplitting. I think the problem with this record is that it doesn't have much character. So, they bought a bunch of old electronic equipment. That's cool, but they could have gone two different ways with this and they did neither. 1) They could have made more of a postmodern record, having fun using the equipment to make retro-signifying sounds and crafting songs with these styles in mind. 2) You got a bunch of new equipment, so PLAY with it. Have fun with it. But this record doesn't sound like they were having fun. It sounds labored. And by labored I don't mean that they worked on it too much, but that the work they did on it sounds more like labor than fun. The last two albums have improved on this. (And it's amazing to me still how few people see Around the Sun as their most convincingly spirited and playful album in over a decade.)
Posted 09/27/2005 - 12:18:57 AM by IanMathers:
 Well, "Why Not Smile" = YES, and it's good to see "Falls To Climb" still in the rear, but I love this whole album. I hear pop where tim hears lifelessness, and I never found it as gloomy as Edward does. This is a great take on the album, although I love it as it is, and Edward's done a great job. Plus, I didn't realize the "Sad Professor" no percussion thing until he pointed it out.
Posted 09/27/2005 - 01:41:24 AM by mabernet:
 Thank you for giving this album its due. It was before and remains in your incarnation my favorite REM album. I won't try to explain why right here. Your criticisms of the album are almost totally correct. However, I would have dropped "Parakeet" and kept "Suspicion." To me, "Parakeet" is the same plodding, piano drivel they pull out once an album now. The same piano line and melody have been used ad-nauseum on the newer REM albums, though I do enjoy the chorus. There are some truly great songs here (Lotus, The Apologist, At My Most Beautiful) and some fantastic production, too (Why Not Smile, You're in the Air, The Apologist). I've never heard another album that sounds like UP, or one that affects me in quite the same way. And for that, I'll always have to give REM version 2.0 some props. Thanks for giving this one the push it needed.
Posted 09/27/2005 - 12:19:49 PM by neilio:
 I'm not a big fan of this album - in fact it was the last REM album I bought... but "Suspicion" is one of the finest REM song of all time. I would also like to say that I think that "Up" is better than the unbelievably overrated "New Adventures in Hi-Fi"
Posted 09/27/2005 - 03:17:16 PM by IanMathers:
 Also, I'm a firm believer in the greatness of "Imitation Of Life", the real last great R.E.M. single.
Posted 09/27/2005 - 04:27:44 PM by thepuffin:
 I will have to agree with opinion that Imitation of Life being the last great single (Bad Day was good but it was written like 20 years ago, so it doesn't really count). The only other "outstanding" song post Up was The Lifting.
Posted 09/27/2005 - 04:57:59 PM by wmdavidson:
 For me, you can play the first two tracks off "Reveal" ("The Lifting" and "I've Been High"), stop there, and you haven't missed anything. "Imitation of Life" is just a reheated "Lifting" with different lyrics.
Posted 09/27/2005 - 09:54:24 PM by timellison:
 "Aftermath," the second single from Around the Sun, is great.
Posted 09/28/2005 - 02:14:15 PM by cactusboy:
 Up does hold Up well now.. I am also of the "suspicion" being one of the greatest rem songs school - I think it kinda captured the whole Up feel.. and still was melodic, and sexy.. stipe channeling bryan ferry almost. never a fan of Hope, but It fits the record.. in other news, Aftermath on the last record bugs the hell out me.. and I actually like a lot of around the sun - the title track and leaving ny are 2 of the best songs they ever wrote.. aftermath has just bored me... dont get it
Posted 09/30/2005 - 12:58:09 AM by shueytexas:
 "Sad Professor" has percussion. Around 1:07, there are some conga (bongo?) drums on the 2 and 4 beats. They may be digital drums, but they're drum beats. Unless I am misunderstanding the definition of percussion. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I am an unabashed R.E.M. apologist (no pun), so I will see the good in whatever they produce, but the sequence here makes good sense.
Posted 09/30/2005 - 12:44:06 PM by JEKeyes:
 Agh. You're right about the "Sad Professor" percussion. That's totally my error!
Posted 10/01/2005 - 04:43:47 AM by AaronCurtis:
 I'm really glad you got to mark this albums high points. I totally respect everyone who doesn't get into this album, because it's really difficult to get into. The shuffle idea was brilliant. I liked it when it came out but it quickly faded away into my stacks, and didn't reappear for about five years later only to be appreciated for what is really there, and there's plenty to love. The only song that I would miss in your rendition is "Diminished" which I am very fond of, especially during the "Sing along..." part, but that's just me. Thanks for again reminding us all why we dig this, I'm going to try out your track order right now. As for the later end of the REM career, this one stands out for me, along with New Adventures as being very respectable albums. New Adventures I see as an improvement over Monster (which itself continues to grow on me over time). But New Adventures is by far my favorite. I thought they made a lot of necessary transitions in that album, and it set them up very well for handling Berry's decision to leave. What I'm curious to see is whether we're just seeing some rickety REM years as they reestablish themselves, or if they're just plain on the downslope. With a couple exceptions, Reveal didn't do a lot for me, and I'll admit that I've not given Around The Sun any chance at all... Maybe we'll see something come of them yet...