Early R.E.M is such a rich fault line of rock minerals. I wanted to write about them as soon as I started this blog but was so spoiled for songs I’ve played a billion times and still haven’t ruined I didn’t know where to start. As with most problems however, R.E.M already have the answer. So I will start with Begin The Begin. Life’s Rich Pageant is such a complete and absorbing album. There is a craft to structuring a long player and for a full on attention grabber to work they have to get you to go deep with the first track. And that’s exactly what R.E.M do here. The thing I admire most about this band is their restraint. They never chug when they could twist. They never take the easy rhyme or the lazy option.
The melodies Stipe plays with would have made 4 or 5 songs for other bands. The weight of the lyrics (A philanderer’s tie, a murderer’s shoe, life’s rich demand creates supply in the hand, of the power, the only vote that matters). Bucks nimble guitar work. Berry’s anchor like beats keeping everything focussed and the dexterity of Mills on bass is everything a serious rock fan could want in an album opener.
The way Begin stops dead just for track two These Days to come tumbling out is just marvellous. Life’s Rich Pageant begins just where and how it should.