Kudzu To Concrete


Georgia kudzu. Photo by me.

I will be digging through my stack of REM cds this week.

The band based in Athens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday. I'll no doubt be sneezing from all the dust since I've not listened to REM in years.

The group led by self-identified queer frontman Michael Stipe has since the 1980s been my favorite rock band. Even though they've faded from the radio, don't produce hits and I question their relevancy in today's world they still are a band I cherish.

The group's last cd of new material released in October 2004, Around The Sun, I never bought or even listened to. The last album I have is 2001's Reveal. I didn't even buy that one, it was a present from an ex-boyfriend.

I outgrew REM when my musical tastes shifted to trip-hop, trance, mainstream dance and more obscure downbeat music.

Like I changed, the times changed, the country unfortunately changed and Georgia had less kudzu and more concrete. Cobain was dead and REM tipped their hat to him with Monster's Let Me In. After that I hung on to that album like a warm lover,maybe for too long. Then I gradually lost that connection with my favorite band.

To me the last great album of REM is one many don't like and that is 1994's Monster. Many longtime fans of the band plainly hated Monster for the guitar heavy, rocked up album. I loved the change.

I hear What's The Frequency Kenneth today and I'm back in college, walking across campus in a snow shower thinking about how great sex was the night before with my boyfriend. Michael sang his ass off on that album. Just listen to Strange Currencies and try and debate me on that.

Monster is special to my heart because of the memories associated with it. Monster was the anthem for the dawn of my queer adult life. I learned to suck cock with that blaring in my bedroom. The sex was sure fun but I don't think I'll be playing Monster as the soundtrack to my life between the sheets again anytime soon. It would be Portishead nowadays.

Of course part of my attraction to REM was sickly looking Stipe. I have that weakness for scrawny men that few share. There are chub chasers and I am the opposite, a skinny chaser. I don't admire celebrities, but Stipe is one person I'd like to meet and have a conversation.

The more important reason for loving REM is Stipe's voice. Mostly it is a pea gravel road but sometimes a nasally wrangled warble emoting a tender sweetness. Which ever way he sang you knew his heart was in it. The band's lyrics mostly written by Stipe. I consider Stipe an authentic artist and not a plastic pop creation like say Britney Spears.

I hate that this sounds like an obituary for the band instead of a tribute to their talents but they've not produced a captivating album for a long time now. I fear they may never compel me to listen to the new stuff, whenever they decide to put something out again. Still though, thanks for the memories REM and congratulations on the induction into the Rock and Roll Old Age Home.

For the record my favorite REM song is Perfect Circle from the 1983 album Murmur. Other all-time favorites: Find The River, Nightswimming, Rockville and Fall On Me.

Further reading: Stipe interviewed by Butt Magazine in which he talks about his 'mister'.