Monster is the most maligned of the well-known R.E.M. albums (among people who know R.E.M., the actual “turd in the punchbowl” — to borrow a phrase from Michael Stipe — is Around the Sun), and I remember it being a fixture in clearance bins of the used CD shops I frequented as a teenager. As a band increasingly known for mandolins and ballads, R.E.M.’s mid-90s electric about-face was interpreted as contrived and, because of their supposedly-old age (late 30s? early 40s?), embarrassing.
That’s silly, though.
First, R.E.M. had a long history of both writing rock songs and shifting sounds; the band had turned to ballads and mandolins in a previous about-face only a few years prior to the album in question. Second, Monster is the result of a band trying to break its formula and explore new ground — thus, it’s contrived by its very nature. So, what’s the problem?
It’s not their best record, but it’s still great and it has something that most records don’t have: a unique sound. It may have been the band’s “reaction to grunge,” as some people said at the time, but it certainly doesn’t sound like grunge.
“Tongue” doesn’t rock, but it does stand alone in R.E.M.’s catalog. The piano-led simplicity, the falsetto… in the midst of a catalogue from band so rich and diverse, this song is still somehow an outlier.
I built my cover off of a sample from the original and released it in 2011 on my EP Diva, but this is a remix that I just did for Zine Fest last month. It’s got bigger beats and more vocals than my first attempt.
This version is a lot better than the first one I did and it makes me want to do rerecordings of all sorts of jams but I must resist. I’ve got to move forward.
Filed under: geoff geis, mp3, around the sun, bill berry, Cover songs, geoff geis, michael stipe, monster, peter buck, r.e.m., tongue, zine fest