Oh Nevermind, Nothing’s Shocking

Ted, Just Admit It...This Album Is Awesome!

In the annals of rock and roll history there have been numerous groundbreaking and important albums released, way too many to mention in a short list here. “Game changers” from Sgt. Peppers to Enter the 36 Chambers are discussed, disputed, diluted and written about ad nauseam. From talking heads on VH1 (and bloggers such as us) to the employees of record and music stores worldwide, there are oft agreed upon standards of excellence that these records have established. You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t at least appreciate the significance of OK Computer or the influence of London Calling.

In the past thirty years or so you can probably list quite a few records that are “instant classics” in various genres (again, won’t even try to start naming them). But over time I am starting to get the feeling that the wrong album is being championed to the forefront of “alternative” rock classics: Nirvana’s Nevermind.  Now before I go on let me please state that I am a fan of the band and the album and in no way, shape, or form am I trying to devalue the record’s greatness. Like many other classic albums, it’s pretty much agreed upon that Nevermind was a game changer. The issue is, I think people are forgetting that perhaps an even greater and more influential album was released a few years earlier than Nevermind. An album that in hindsight seems almost more groundbreaking than it did when it was first released. An album that, unlike the claim by many that Nevermind was the “death of hair metal” actually was the beginning of the end of it. The album I am referring to is Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking.

Let’s go back to the mid-to-late-80’s when anyone on the wrong side of U2 and REM were pretty much reaching the end of their runs in the musical spotlight. Hair metal had taken over “real” metal as the most popular form of hard rock entertainment. While the salad days of hip hop were beginning, the end was near for bands like Poison, Ratt, and Motley Crue. Metallica was the lone wolf in the hard rock realm still holding on to the glory years of 70’s British New Wave of Metal while forging new ground (and a genre) with thrash. But girls didn’t really listen to Metallica. You still made out to power ballads by Warrant and if you were lucky, some slower Van Halen songs.

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It’s the End of R.E.M. and I Feel Fine

Hopefully the people who spent the day with “Everybody Hurts” on repeat have talked themselves down off the ledge and realized that R.E.M. calling it quits is a no-big-deal decision that’s probably for the best. Soon as the news broke everyone was “reporting” it by posting “R.I.P R.E.M” on Facebook and Twitter and either pretending to be sad or cracking jokes about how they thought R.E.M. broke up years ago.

Good for them for calling it quits and going out on a high note (review below). Sure, some people thought they overstayed their welcome by 10 or 15 years already. Personally I still love their first 5 albums, but never could get into their mellow mid-to-late era albums. And yes, I’m including Automatic For The People, allegedly a consensus masterpiece. Sorry, I always found it to be overrated. Most people reading this now think I’m an idiot. Oh well.

They lasted 30 years. We didn’t need them to go on and on like the Stones. So don’t be sad, just put a bow on it, put ‘em to bed, and know that you can always visit them as you remember them best. We’ll help start the healing by reprinting our reviews of their most recent album (Collapse Into Now) and the reissue of their best (Reckoning).

R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now (2011)

R.E.M.’s new album Collapse Into Now just breathes where its predecessor was trying to breathe fire. It’s nuanced, whereas Accelerate simply pushed the needle attempting to rock its way back to their early sound.

Accelerate was a fine record, and its sometimes-generic rockers are as good as some of the similar-veined material on Collapse Into Now. But the new one succeeds by acknowledging that the mid-tempo meditations (and mandolins!) are also part of the classic R.E.M. sound.

The clean mix puts the spotlight on Peter Buck, without turning everything up to 11. It combines a healthy dose of the acoustic atmospherics and mellow moments (that led them toward the sleepy missteps of their recent work) with enough energetic rockers to keep everyone awake.

Forget all the “finding their religion” puns, finally all of their sounds collapse into now.

R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984, reissue 2009)

r.e.m.’s first album was called murmur and when the second one starts you think maybe it could be called hypermumble but it’s not it’s called reckoning which is a pretty cool title i guess and it’s a really cool album. the guitars are jangly but not annoying and the melodies are catchy but this isn’t pop music this is cool college radio music from back when such a thing still existed before they started calling it alternative rock before alternative rock became so popular that by definition it was then pop. it’s still hard to hear what the singer is talking about but he mentions swallowing the ocean, a short-haired boy or girl (i’m not sure), catacombs, a camera, this season, a handshake is worthy, the tower, alone in a crowd, and during one song he just keeps repeating that he’s sorry. the one where he says "i’m sorry" is a lot of people’s favorite song from this album but i grew up in rockville, md, and went to rockville high school so of course we all thought the song called "don’t go back to rockville" was the coolest song since in some way it was possible that it might be about us even though we kinda knew that it probably wasn’t. this album came out in 1984 and ever since then every band in america and most other countries tried to sound just like this album whether they knew it or not except for all the bands that tried to make sure they didn’t sound like this album. in 2009 the people that make the records made a new version of r.e.m.’s reckoning that they cleaned up and made sound all pretty even though the spirit of the sound of this album is kinda scruffy and off the cuff to begin with it still sounded great after it was all dressed up in fancy sound quality because it was always beautiful on the inside.