[so if you don't currently own collapse into now, the brand-new R.E.M. album, go get it. now. i'll wait. got it? good. now we can go on.]
southern alt-rock girls such as myself have a special relationship with R.E.M. mine began the first time i ever heard "fall on me," one of the most beautiful songs ever written. i think i was seven, and it was LOVE. i mean, pure-out, howl-at-the-moon LOVE. i was changed, permanently. (hey, by the way, remember when "losing my religion" won all those MTV VMAs? back when the M stood for music, that is. there was a time when alt-rock kids were the culture. i miss that. but i digress.)
one of the great things about R.E.M. is the way they tell stories in their songs. michael stipe can say more in three minutes that i could ever hope to say in a thousand blog entries. he crawls into my heart and wrings out the emotion i had in there, saying it better than i ever could. "be mine," from new adventures in hi-fi (which is one of the greatest records ever made, in my humble opinion - it's not only amazing, but it's the record that originally drew me into my friendship with the man, some 15 years ago), was on an endless loop as i finally decided to pursue something more than just casual hook-ups with the man. they speak my language, i guess.
so on the new album, which i have owned for 38 hours as of this writing and listened to four times through, there's a track called "blue." it's a throwback to "e-bow the letter," the main single from new adventures, down to the patti smith vocal track. it's largely poetry, michael stipe reading his words, voice filtered through effects over sleepy, beautiful guitars. but the last stanza is what hit me harder than anything i've heard recently:
i'm not giving up easy, i will not fold
i don't have much, but what i have is gold...
i want me, i want it all
i want sensational, irresistible
this is my time, and i am thrilled to be alive
living, blessed, i understand.
damn. it's like a bolt out of the blue. (oof - pardon the pun.) i'm big on finding messages in the world around me. my ex used to make fun of me and our mutual ex-best friend, telling us, y'all, life is not a song cue. i don't know about that; i find that songs and life are inextricably intertwined. music is the river that runs through my life. maybe it's being a musician's daughter, growing up around live bands, the constant sound of daddy's guitar noodling underwriting nearly every memory i have. but i find my life, my inspiration in music. R.E.M. has always been a key part of that, and this song struck me like a giant cosmic 2x4. check your head, girl, it says. you don't have much, but it's valuable as hell. be thrilled. be blessed. understand.
i hear you, michael. i'm listening. thanks.