R.E.M.’s Lifes Rich Pageant

As I fell into the sky, as Inspector Clouseau forever would, I also fell deep into the mysteries of R.E.M., who previously had been impenetrable and obscure. Hours trying to decipher the words and meanings of Michael Stipe’s lyrics, a muddled pop opera of signs, a map of black holes across a universe made visible by the light of the time invested in listening to their first three albums.

But as their fourth album landed, Stipe’s words were crystal clear, meaning up front, voice even above the mix, not hidden, but glowing by the glory of an asking sky.  Its stance was also evident: anti capitalist, anti colonialism, anti modernity, anti ecocide, anti war, all with a potent wordplay urgency that to this day keeps me informed and mentally inspired. How could such views, poetry and sensibilities be aligned so perfectly with the music by Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry? A permanent and constant memory in a receding college radio momentum. The abstract images of blurry americana by the way of fanzine dreams of the artwork, the only puzzle still unsolved. 

Lifes Rich Pageant is a story of weight, that keeps falling and never hitting the ground, solid air itself, the dinner side, the supper side, the superman, it’s the middle point between their underground beginnings and their rise to the arms of the mainstream. It is the one I return to the most, the one that I love, the finest document, a layered recount of acoustic and hard jingle jangles that captured my mind during summer of 86. This is where I walked, this is where I swam. I took a picture here and took a souvenir. 

(Published in Lunchtime For The Wild Youth #41 fanzine, in February 2022).