30 Best Loved Albums - Murmur


2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. With that on to #25 of the list...

25. R.E.M – Murmur (1983)

It’s hard to describe how much a breath of fresh air Murmur was in 1983. Punk was a spent force and spandex clad hair bands were beginning their mighty popular rise, a force that wouldn’t be killed for over 10 years (thanks Nirvana!). As with most 20 year olds college kids at the time, I was discovering all the punk and post-punk I missed living as a teenager in suburban flyover land. However there wasn’t much that was new, that I could call my own. Then came Murmur.

To be honest, I don’t remember exactly where or when I first heard Murmur but I do remember being pretty much an early adapter of the band. It really was something that you never heard before. Finally a band that belonged to you and your friends and not to a bunch of snot nosed punks, self-important baby boomers, or long-haired hippies. Critics talked about “jangly? guitars like the Byrds but I never heard that. It was dreamy, atmospheric with lyrics that were indecipherable and the lyrics you could hear didn’t make any sense. Here is the first verse of Radio Free Europe:

Beside yourself if radio's gonna stay.
Reason: it could polish up the grey.
Put that, put that, put that up your wall
That this isn't country at all

Don’t worry Michael Stipe doesn’t know what it means either.

Any band can do dreamy and atmospheric but what makes someone want to listen over and over again is that the songs have to be good, even if you can’t understand the lyrics, and Murmur is full of good songs. Radio Free Europe was the big hit of course even if Cities 97 has played it to death. Pilgrimage, Talk About the Passion, and Shaking Through have always been favorites. Catapult has a perfect bass guitar and drum opening that’s never been done before or since. Michael Mills was the most accomplished musician at the time the album was recorded and you can tell as the bass work is exquisite. Michael Stipe’s voice really is a 4th instrument and the arcane lyrics add to the moodiness.

A great example of Stipe’s vocal work is in Talk about the Passion. During the end of the second verse there is a violin accompanying Peter Buck’s guitar, it repeats its refrain and then Stipe’s vocal humming comes in right with the violin and you literally cannot tell where the violin ends and the vocals begin. Truly an amazing song. Peter Buck’s guitar on Shaking Through is simple yet adds a complexity to the song as it compliments the vocals and a piano.

I’ve enjoyed this album for nearly 25 years and and I cannot even think of not having it for another 25, it’s simply that good. The songs have many layers and can be uplifting when you need a jolt or quiet when you needs some introspection time. You can focus on a specific musician or have the songs wash over you like a shower. For that reason, Murmur is one of my 30 favorite albums. What do you think of Murmur?

Place on the Definitive 200 List: Not on the List


sweet. I too love this record with a passion. we used to joke about how stipe justs mumbles thruout the whole thing. a mumble-along album?? it showed & proved that lyrics could be strangely mysterious & yet sorta open to your own interpretation. it's truly held up over all these years & for me still my fave REM outing. And those 1st REM live shows I went to were surreal & great. definitive indeed... keep em coming.

This album came out when I was a Junior in High School, and I have loved it ever since. I agree with you, Free, that you can listen to it today and it does not sound dated -which you can't say about a lot of '80's music. For example, try listening to the Psychedelic Furs now and see what you think.

Jeff T.

Good to hear from you Freak, it's been awhile. Dylan concert comin' we need to connect.

I hear you Jeff, you bring up an interesting post topic: bands or albums you liked but now are really lame. Furs easily could be near the top of the list.

Nice review, Dean.

When I pack up CDs for a road trip (yes, CDs -- I am still largely resisting the iPod takeover, but am growing weak) Murmur is always in the pile.

Chronic Town piqued my interest in REM. I used to play "Carnival of Sorts" and "Wolves, Lower" on my college radio show back when I knew virtually nothing about the band (and I vividly recall the time my hipper-than-thou music director chastised me for referring to them on air as "Rapid Eye Movement").

But I will never forget the first time I heard "Radio Free Europe" (the Murmur version). My girlfriend at the time (now wife) had this shit-brown Chevette that happened to be equipped with an ass-kickin' Blaupunkt stereo. We were driving back to St. John's from the liquor store in St. Cloud, listening to KSJU (it was a BROADCAST station back then), and there it was -- those three snare hits, and the rest is history.

Location bamako, location vacances BAMAKO Baco-Djicoroni Golf - MALI - La résidence Soumaré est un complexe de trois appartements pour tout equipé avec le maximum de confort pour le plaisir des invités.


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This page contains a single entry by Freealonzo published on September 16, 2007 9:55 PM.

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