Saturday, June 8, 2013
Monster (R.E.M) (1994)
R.E.M’s ninth and most controversial release inches towards its twentieth year of existence with no apparent ease in sight. The band had been at the heights of its powers and, like Dylan before them, changed direction and plugged into a harsher rock sound and fans were stopped cold in tracks. Maybe lead singer Michael Stipe felt out of place amidst the grunge love-fest that was permeating the air but history will prove eventually that this is the band’s best album.
It sure is the loudest: the twelve songs that make up Monster are all jarring, disorienting yet shockingly human. Stipe and company had reached a frustrated point with their celebrity and it had started to affect their personal interaction. One can hear it in the hiss that singles out Stipe on the brilliant King Of Comedy to the point where he lashes out towards the end, “I’m not commodity” repeatedly. The album also touches on sexual frustration quirkily on I Don’t Sleep, I Dream, where he ponders if he gives good head and mother envy on Crush With Eyeliner. And no R.E.M LP could be complete without Stipe stretching his gorgeous vocals over some geeky, intense emotion and one listen to Strange Currencies reinforces the fact that no band has done emo-rock half as well since. No introspection could ignore the album’s centerpiece though, the touching Cobain tribute, Let Me In. It’s a mere three minutes of guitar shards and a solemn Stipe berating that other superstar for not letting us into his life. After all these years it remains one of rock’s most harrowing moments.
Apologies To The Queen Mary (Wolf Parade) (2005)
The debut of Wolf Parade still stands as the most exciting release of frantic rock music in the last decade. For starters, it introduced the world properly to the genius of Spencer Krug and for that alone the album is significant. Wrapped within the sardonic title though is some stunning emo rock: Krug’s vocal work reaches the same brilliant heights achieved by Bowie on such classics like I’ll Believe In Anything and Dear Sons & Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts---which features the immortal line, ‘God doesn’t always have the best goddamn plan, does he?’ The beauty of the Krug/Dan Boeckner combination though remains the juxtaposition of lyrics to production. With a voice like Krug’s virtually anything touched will mine gold but the album began the contemporary trend of dissecting the male perspective in rock music, in relation to family, past experiences and bonding. Who can forget the first time the opening blast of I Am My Father’s Son… hit you and every body part sat up to that groovy beat? Or the hollowed sadness experienced when Krug slows it down to fall behind the guitar beat of Dinner Bells?
Of course this is a group effort but it’s the aformentioned Boeckner’s production that plays the best foil for Krug pretty damage. The group’s done some decent stuff since but they’ve never been able to capture this essence again, which would have been expected. Even upon release, critics fell heavily in love with the album; all the major online publications fell over themselves to lavish praise. Give it a spin and fall in love with it again.