Thin Line Between Stupid and Clever

Opining on Whatever

Let’s Have a Listen to R.E.M.’s “Country Feedback”

From the Album Out of Time
Released March 12, 1991

R.E.M. has always been one of those bands that I have a tremendous respect for, while also caring little about. I’ve never owned a R.E.M. album. I’ve never had a passionate discussion about the merits of R.E.M. like I have about a thousand other, and sometimes lesser, bands. R.E.M. just was. However, I recently stumbled across “Country Feedback” and have since become slightly obsessed. This may finally be the song that forces me to dig deeper into the R.E.M. catalog.

Let’s have a listen:

This flower is scorched
This film is on
On a maddening loop
These clothes
These clothes don’t fit us right
I’m to blame
It’s all the same
It’s all the same

Note: According to Wikipedia, the first verse he sings in the video (the best version in existence, btw) above is from the song “Chorus and the Ring.” The lyrics posted here are the first lyrics to the studio version of “Country Feedback.” We clear?

This is not my typical type of song. I’m usually adverse to lyrics being read to me (sing those words, singer!), but not here. Maybe it’s the guitar, which reminds me a little of the beginning of “Tuesday’s Gone.” Maybe it’s that the lyrics are strangely fantastic even on first listen when you have no idea what they mean. Maybe it’s a combination of the two, or maybe it’s that it just sounds so fucking desperate. There’s a feeling from the first chord of this song that something intense is taking place and that you want to stick around. There’s no guarantee that this song is going to get louder, but there’s a pretty good chance.

You come to me with a bone in your hand
You come to me with your hair curled tight
You come to me with positions

You come to me with excuses
Ducked out in a row
You wear me out, you wear me out

Yep, this is not going to end well. This a relationship you can’t end, no matter how much you want to. Maybe you love the other person, or maybe you hate them, but for some bizarre reason, you need them. I’ve been there, Stipe.

We’ve been through fake-a-breakdown
Self hurt, plastics, collections
Self help, self pain
EST, psychics, fuck all

“I need this. I need this.”

If that’s not a shitty relationship perfectly summed up with incomplete sentences, then I don’t know what is. At the beginning of this song, Stipe states that it’s his favorite song. How often do you hear an artist admit to what their favorite piece of work is? And for such a sad, lonely, and desperate song to be his favorite is wildly interesting to me.

I was central, I had control, I lost my head
I need this, I need this
A paper weight, junk garage
A winter rain, a honey pot
Crazy, all the lovers have been tagged

A hot line, a wanted ad
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
I need this, I need this

This is where the song hooked me on the very first listen. That’s pure regret. It’s that feeling of being totally in control until the moment you’re not and then despising the bad decision and everything that led to it. It’s crazy what you could’ve had, well, if you weren’t a fuck up.

It’s crazy what you could’ve had
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
I need this, I need this

Stipe never gets mentioned in the great lead singers of all time, and probably for good reason, but few lead singers have been able to convey emotion as well as this guy can. If his repeated build up of these lines isn’t enough for you, just go listen to “Everybody Hurts” again. The guy will make you want to cry. Axl Rose has never made me want to do that. Of course, Stipe has never made me want to move to L.A., buy a Harley, and drive around high on cocaine and Natural Light. They all have their strengths.

Can we also touch on this guitar solo (4:17 mark)? That’s a solo that fits the song. Just when Stipe has me ready to just give up and throw in the towel, the guitar solo jumps in and has me feeling defiant. Could you learn the solo in your basement in less than an hour? Probably. But could you write it for the song or play it on the spot? No, I don’t think you could.

So, that’s it. That’s the R.E.M. song that has me reevaluating everything I ever thought I knew about R.E.M. If you’re interested in more, there is another great version with Neil Young on YouTube. Carry on.

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