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Old 08-27-2005, 06:38 AM   #1
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Monster/Pop and beyond...

I was listening to REM's Monster in my car yesterday. Was really enjoying it and thinking to myself, how could this not have been a huge hit for the band? It made me realize that there's actually a lot of similarities between 90s U2 and early 90s REM, come to think of it. Both went political to personal with Achtung Baby and Out Of Time respectively. Continued in the same vein with Zooropa (which was of course more just plain experimental than personal) and Automatic. And then released a shocker of an album in Pop and Monster to really shake the fan base up. What happened next. Neither one did very well in terms of sales or popularity. One band panicked. The other didn't. Unfazed by the dismal sales, REM went on to make the brilliant New Adventures. On the other hand, U2 came crashing down to earth with a 'back to the roots' comeback in ATYCLB. Granted that since then, REM have floated away towards the town of obscurity. But I wonder if U2 could've delivered a couple of gems on the lines of New Adventures and Up, had they not pressed the big red PANIC button. Discuss.

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Old 08-27-2005, 07:48 AM   #2
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This is a little bit off topic (OK, a lot) but I've often thought that 1997 was a bad year for the big bands of the time. U2's Pop, REM's Monster and Oasis's Be Here Now were all pretty much badly received by critics and many fans.

What happened next is interesting. As you say REM went on quietly making records as they always did. Oasis and U2 however didn't release another studio album for three years each. Both of these albums would leave many distinctly underwhelmed. Cue another few years between albums for both bands.

But now look what's happened. Oasis's latest album has caused many fans to believe in them again whilst U2 have managed to regain popularity at an alarming rate to become, arguably, the biggest band in the world. Whereas REM are still quietly making records and going steadily downhill in popularity.

So in the longer term who was right? REM who got on with the job or U2 and Oasis who both panicked began clutching at straws (wait a few years THEN the fans will be begging for an album. A gamble as fans could easily forget all them. Then you've got the style changes. U2 returned to its roots, Oasis began experimenting). My point is Oasis and U2 clutched at straws until they got the right ones whereas REM, in staying calm, haven't had the impetus to become the biggest band in the world and instead have gone slowly downhill whilst the other 2 disaster bands of '97 have gone on a rollercoaster ride that has finally seen them both come back on top again. Whether or not it's just the top of a huge drop on the coaster remains to be seen.

But to answer the question you actually asked! I don't think U2 could have produced another gem of an album by staying calm, no. For 2 reasons:

1. Where do you go after Pop? It clearly hadn't worked in the way it should have. But they couldn't exactly reconstruct the popular ZooTV era either as that time had gone. To go 'back to their roots' quickly after Pop wouldn't have seemed right either, it was over a decade since we'd last seen the 'traditional U2' it would be like going backwards. If they made another Pop and it failed too then how could the band come back after that? What U2 needed was a break. ATYCLB was what they came up with. Not a 'return to their roots' fully but nor the experimental album of the 90s. It was a transitional album that was appropriate for reestablishing the band.

2. U2 had created a very divided fanbase due to its two very different decades of albums. ATYCLB allowed some of the 80s era style to return whilst giving it a modern sound. HTDAAB was the album that fully fused the two decades together (trad: One Step Closer Exp: LAPOE) but it was ATYCLB that perhaps established the process. And so we have what we have now. A fanbase that can appreciate both decades whilst perhaps holding a preference for one in particular. If HTDAAB is anything to go by U2 seem to be recognising this by mixing the two styles of the decades.

A/N: I don't understand any of the above either but I've typed it all now so I'm posting it!
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Old 08-27-2005, 08:05 AM   #3
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Well... firstly, Monster came out in 94, not 97. But yeah, I can sort of see what you're saying here... that U2 had to release ATYCLB to figure out exactly where they were headed. HTDAAB though is not exactly a fusion of the 80s and 90s. It's got a lot of 80s nostalgia guitar work in it. And LAPOE is nothing compared to the likes of Achtung, Zooropa or Pop! Whereas... New Adventures is I think almost as brilliant as Automatic. And Up... as depressing as it is... is sheer genius!!!
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Old 08-27-2005, 09:35 AM   #4
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REM lost their drummer, who it seems was responsible for most of their great music, since everything recorded after he left has been near mush(Up, Reveal, Around The Sun.)
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Old 08-27-2005, 10:07 AM   #5
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I have a confession to make. I had no idea when Monster came out but couldn't be bothered to look up Second confession: I also only own REM's latest best of, not any of their other stuff

Nevertheless I think REM have been pretty much a consistent band. But my question to you is: what do you think is going wrong now? Leaving New York was a good song, in my opinion, but the other stuff hasn't exactly set the music world alight.

I think one of the problems for REM is/was Automatic For The People. Everyone knows and loves Everybody Hurts so much that it overshadows all they do. So that for every good album they release it's always going to compare unfavourably to that. That for every average to good album they do, people are always going to know they can do better.

And I've actually done some research this time. I know it's not really fair to do this but I thought if I compared songs I liked that were on the best of to the ones on the albums you mention then I might have a better idea of whether I'd enjoy the albums too.

So my conclusions:

New Adventures- Meh. But then there are only 2 songs on it that were also on the best of.

Up: Again, only 2 songs but Daysleeper (love that song) and At My Most Beautiful (Adore that song! Possibly even prefer it to Everybody Hurts).

In conclusion, agree with you 100% about Up being genius even if that 100% is based on rather shakey info!
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Old 08-27-2005, 10:22 AM   #6
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I am a huge, huge R.E.M. fan and I think it's interesting you bring this up. R.E.M. have always gone against the mainstream views of popular music. When Out of Time and Automatic came out in '91 and '92, it was the height of the grunge era with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc., and here were R.E.M., who were once a rock band with Document and Green, putting away all their electric guitars and coming out with two of the most beautiful acoustic albums ever made. Two of their most successful albums, and they didn't even tour for them! When Monster came out in '94, I think it was Michael who said they wanted to go on tour, but they needed a big rock and roll record to promote. But in '94, rock and roll was again fading out, thus keeping R.E.M. opposite of what mainstream music was doing.

I just think people were scared with Monster. R.E.M. got a whole new fan base with Out of Time and Automatic, people who were familiar with the soft, quiet R.E.M. you could bring home to your parents. I just think Monster scared a lot of people away and is one of the most overlooked, underrated albums of all time. Monster has some of Stipe's best lyrics ever, but the "noise" is what made their audience kind of hesitant. New Adventures was the most brilliant move the band ever did and is such a fantastic album. Even Up, Reveal, and Around the Sun after Bill's departure are better albums then other albums that were released those years. But people seem to forget about R.E.M. because being the biggest band in the world is not important to them. They do what feels right to them during certain time periods as kind of a "fuck you" to the mainstream. And you've got to respect them for that. That's one problem I had with U2 after Pop. They just went back to the formula they knew would work because their biggest band in the world status was dwindling. I love both these bands dearly, but I love R.E.M. because of their ability to consistently deliver, even when they're not as universally accepted as they used to be.
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Old 08-27-2005, 10:28 AM   #7
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*in response to Quiet1*

Oh my God... where to start?

1. First of all, Daysleeper and At My Most Beautiful are the sunnier tracks from Up. No wonder they made it to the greatest hits! I do like those 2 but there's so much more to Up... Walk Unafraid, Suspicion, Hope, Sad Professor, You're In The Air... etc. Some great writing in these songs.

2. Everybody Hurts does not overshadow everything they've done! What about Man On The Moon, Sidewinder, Drive, Nightswimming etc. from Automatic? What about Losing My Religion, It's The End Of The World, The One I Love, Shiny Happy People and lots more from before?

3. New Adventures is great!!! E-bow The Letter and Electrolite are only the tip of the iceberg. And E-bow is not even as good as songs like Leave, Bittersweet Me, So Fast So Numb and Binky The Doormat.

4. To answer your question... I frankly don't know if anything is going wrong with REM right now, cos I haven't listened to Reveal or Around The Sun. I guess Up didn't do well cos it's so downbeat and lowkey. I loved it though!

But the point I was trying to explore was... could U2 have pulled off a New Adventures or Up had they not changed their sound back so dramatically. Or would they have just disappeared into oblivion?
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Old 08-27-2005, 10:33 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by NumbMacphisto

But people seem to forget about R.E.M. because being the biggest band in the world is not important to them. They do what feels right to them during certain time periods as kind of a "fuck you" to the mainstream. And you've got to respect them for that. That's one problem I had with U2 after Pop. They just went back to the formula they knew would work because their biggest band in the world status was dwindling. I love both these bands dearly, but I love R.E.M. because of their ability to consistently deliver, even when they're not as universally accepted as they used to be.
Completely agree!
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Old 08-27-2005, 10:47 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zootlesque
I frankly don't know if anything is going wrong with REM right now, cos I haven't listened to Reveal or Around The Sun.
Nothing is going wrong with REM right now,, Reveal is their best album IMO. And around the sun is just classic REM.

Dont have a fancy reply to add to the debate right now. But i think its a great topic
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Old 08-27-2005, 10:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zootlesque
*in response to Quiet1*

Oh my God... where to start?
I know, I know, I know (or rather I don't!). I'll stop 'attempting' to contribute to the REM side of things 'cos I clearly don't know enough about REM! (But hey, it's been educational, right?!)

But as for "could U2 have done another great album without changing their sound back?" Who really knows? Despite having songs like Numb, Zooropa was still very different from Pop. It wasn't as if U2 had been on a clear experimental path. You couldn't really link Pop back to AB for example (it wasn't as if people look back on it and say it was the pinnacle of the 90s where all the experimentation from earlier albums came together if you see what I mean?). I just don't see how you could get any more experimental than Pop (Mofo, for example, was possibly the furthest away from 'U2' U2 ever got). Given the mauling Pop got, I think U2 had to go back or, at the very least, tone down what they were doing in terms of experimentation because, frankly, if they went much further, U2 would not be U2 anymore. They'd be unrecognisable to the fanbase they'd worked so hard to build up. It would have been a desperate gamble that had high odds of failing IMHO.
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Old 08-27-2005, 11:52 AM   #11
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I'm not sure how Monster isn't regarded as a huge hit for REM? That album was huge for them at the time. They had 6 singles released from that album most getting heavy airplay on MTV, VH1 and radio it spawned their last huge world tour, this by all consideration was their last big album. I'm not saying it was their last good ablum, but it was their last big album.

I think the reason it didn't have staying power like most of their other albums was musically it doesn't fit with the rest of their catalog and it was very throw back to 70's music.
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Old 08-27-2005, 12:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by TheQuiet1
Everyone knows and loves Everybody Hurts so much that it overshadows all they do.
not everyone.

i dislike everybody hurts probably more than any other song that has ever been recorded by anyone. it's the only song on the album that i skip. it's maudlin, and trite, and i completely hate it. in fact, every time i see them live, i use that song as an opportunity to go get more beer.

this is a really interesting thread, though.
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Old 08-27-2005, 12:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrBrau1
REM lost their drummer, who it seems was responsible for most of their great music, since everything recorded after he left has been near mush(Up, Reveal, Around The Sun.)
This is true, but how do explain Monster?
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Old 08-27-2005, 12:40 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by bonosgirl84


not everyone.

i dislike everybody hurts probably more than any other song that has ever been recorded by anyone. it's the only song on the album that i skip. it's maudlin, and trite, and i completely hate it. in fact, every time i see them live, i use that song as an opportunity to go get more beer.

this is a really interesting thread, though.
I agree. I usually skip over this one as well.

Everybody Hurts just sounds like something Kermit the Frog would sing.
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Old 08-27-2005, 01:15 PM   #15
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I loathe Everybody Hurts. And I'm with the poster a few posts above - where/when is Monster considered a failure? I don't think it's held up well, but it was still a successful album and tour, with many radio singles.

I like Up quite a bit, but Reveal and Around the Sun are just ... okay. But I still love to see them live and respect that they're still out there, putting out the music they want to do.

Finally, New Adventures in Hi-Fi is a fantastic record and horribly underrated.
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