Saturday, April 01, 2006

This Is A Good Song: "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" by R.E.M.

So this is going to be a recurring thing (I think) called "This Is A Good Song," where I talk about a song I happen to like a lot. This could probably alternate as "This Is A Good Album" or "This Is A Good Band" or something like that, if I feel like it. It's already a pretty horrible title, which probably doesn't bode well for this segment, but it's the first thing that came to my mind. So I'm just going to have to deal with it.

I've been listening to a lot of R.E.M. recently - I mean, a LOT of R.E.M. And this is weird for me, considering that for about a year or so I've been trying to avoid just listening to one band for and extensive period of time. Hell, most of the bands I've been listening to have been alternative dance-rockers from the ninties, like Blur, Primal Scream, The Chemical Brothers, The Beastie Boys, etc. Great, interesting stuff, to be sure, but not really emotionally investing work. The closest I've come to that recently has problaby been "Funeral" by the Arcade Fire, which really tugs at my heartstrings. But I haven't really been embracing of one particular artist in a while since Bob Dylan about a year ago, when I fell in love with "Blood on the Tracks".

So last summer, I bought Document by R.E.M. on a whim. It's a great album, but it gave me a wrong impression of the band - they just seemed like left-wing political college-rockers who make fun of the state of the world while denouncing it. Cool band, but maybe a little too self absorbed for my tastes - they seemed to act as if they had all the answers, at least to me. So when I eventually downloaded Automatic for the People back in October, an album heralded by countless reviewers and fans as an emotional masterpiece, I couldn't embrace it. Not only did the tunes not really stand out to me, I couldn't find that much emotional investment in a band like this. Besides "Everybody Hurts" and "Man on the Moon," it didn't affect me too much. It was moody, and at certain points very pretty, but... it just didn't grab me.

Well - long and boring story short - about a couple months ago I got into "Radio Free Europe" and wondered to myself, "Hey, maybe Murmur's a good one." And lo and behold, Murmur was great. The lyrics made no sense, but the energy, craftsmanship and overall sound of the album blew me right over, an album so completely different from what I really expected from a so-called "college-rock" band. Much less easy to define than their other works, but beautiful nonetheless. So after thoroughly enjoying Murmur, out of boredom, I started up Automatic again practically out of instinct.

Automatic's one of my favorite albums now. What the fuck?? Who would've guessed that?

Anyway - I'll talk about the other reasons I love this album so much later - "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite." Fantastic, wonderful. The lyrics are absolutely stupid and make no sense. "Baby instant soup doesn't really grab me/Today I need something more, substantial/ But can I be into black eyed peas/ Some Nescafe and ice/ A candy bar, a falling star/ or a reading from Dr. Seuss?" What the fuck does that mean, Michael Stipe, and why are you singing it so energetically? But who the hell cares. The song burts in with an organ, subtle electric guitar, and Michael Stipe singing the "dee dee dee dee" from "The Lion Sleeps Tonite" (which apparently inspired the title), which draws you in quickly, and the end of the song is pushed into the stratosphere with these strings that keep coming in and out. In all honestly, I have a boner for strings. I can't help it. If an already-great song suddenly comes bursting in with strings, I'll get as giddy as a school girl. I'll get wet. Seriously.

Uh, anyway - the chorus of the song - "Call me when you try to wake her up," said really fast, over and over again. Kind of a call and response, with Stipe saying it and then the rest of the band chiming in. Near the end he starts going, "I can always sleep standing up!" in a really giddy voice that just warms my dumb little heart. The song just sounds like this joyous celebration of the small, stupid things in life - something Automatic doesn't have that much of. I can't get enough of it, simply put.

Apparently the band hates this song now - just my luck!! "Shiny Happy People" and now this one. Peter Buck seems to hate anything of R.E.M.'s that I like... it's a weird phenomenon. But I love the song, in case you didn't gather that. It's become the most played on my iTunes, even above "Bittersweet Symphony" (still one of my favorite 90's songs). I can't get enough of it.

Maybe one of these days I'll get really sick of it and write a super-degrading entry in this blog proclaiming a newfound hatred for this stupid little early-90's gem. But until that time...

"We've got to moogie moogie move on this one..."


Anonymous said...

AFTP is a really good album. Never completely submerged myself in it but I like it.

After your amazing ytmnd, I was compelled to download "Standing Still" and although my memories of that song are now tainted by President Eisenhower, it's still a great song.

Hopefully Paul will send me "Murmur" soon and I'll let you know what I think about it after I hear it.

scott (the other one) said...

Completely agree. A crazily underrated song of theirs. But I think this line:

But can I be into black eyed peas

is actually "a can of beans or black eyed peas." Could be wrong, of course.

Have you tried Document again? I think it's one of their three 5-star albums, along with Murmur and Automatic.