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R.E.M: Progenitors of Indie Rock?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Minimalist518, Jun 26, 2018.

  1. luckett

    luckett Banned

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    A bunch of babbling nonsense that has no relevance to the topic being discussed. Get off my lawn Lou!
     
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  2. Minimalist518

    Minimalist518 Tele-Afflicted

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    Kind of off-point, right? It’s not like I named the thread “The Velvet Underground are Singlehandedly Responsible for Every Great Band Ever and Here’s Why!” [emoji23]
     
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  3. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Good luck in your pursuits.

    As usual.
     
  4. jrblue

    jrblue Friend of Leo's

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    Don't want to fan the flames, and I'm pretty ambivalent about the VU (though I've listened to them since before their first LP), but it seems to me impossible to deny their influence since an avalanche of musicians have expressly credited them for exactly that. I'm not saying they produced a load of great music -- quite the contrary, as I find much of their stuff really pretentious, and Lou Reed, later, is to me almost unlistenable. But as far as art-rock, and the idea of working entirely outside of the biz, they were definitely the poster children for that. And for shooting heroin.
     
  5. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    You're trying to create a sort of Architecture to categorize or explain various genres of music. Having places that "incubate" music and musicians is a great thing and it is part of the appeal of a place like New Orleans.

    But there's a tendency to force order on events that are essentially chaotic. A disc jockey can't play 100% REM, so you have to find something to play with the REM. We assign a name to the music. But how much similarity is there, really? I think it has more to do with the open minded nature, youthful and adventuresome nature of the potential audience. People that want to make a mark for their generation. But you can get carried away, trying to assign too much importance to one band or another.
     
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  6. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I hear you.

    But you're this close, without actually hitting on the point I am trying to make. We're social animals, and we look for common grounds on which to communicate and agree. So, first one New Wave performer mentions Lou Reed, and then another, then another and there's this theme of a new awakening and you just can't convey that message if you mention you like Buddy Holly or Aretha Franklin. You can get people to buy your records and attend concerts IF they think you're part of a cool new tribe, and that's why people all start doing the monkey-see, monkey-do thing with the Velvets.

    We also have this Myth that everybody started a rock band the day after they saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I think more people started bands after the Rolling Stone appeared but once these Myths get critical mass, you're locked in. I want people to dig deeper and look more carefully at these historical changes. I'm to the point in my life, I would rather talk to and spin records with people who like unusual music that's different from what I found. And I don't think we can achieve that if we keep perpetuating all this infatuation with the Velvet Underground. People are just remembering things wrong, and they need to appreciate how this can happen. And the other thing is, if there was ever any water in the Velvet Underground well, then, it is surely gone today. Youngsters need to direct their explorations someplace else.

    One thing I want to hammer home was, not that the Velvets didn't work for me when I got to hear the first album upon its release. If this band had followed a different progression (everything) from there, I could've become an ardent fan. My point is, I listened to the MUSIC on it and looked at the album cover and I didn't know or think to find out who these people were. I didn't know what their background was or anything about their lifestyle. And I pretty much firmed up my impression from the record and only that. Other people come along, after the fact, reading books and articles about the band and hearing stories about their lifestyles and their antics and it is the LIFESTYLE of the band that I think determines the Image of this band and I hate to say this about my younger born heroes (Stipe and Kerr and Byrne and all the others) but I am convinced they were moved by the Image of the band. Not really the music as it were.

    The Importance of the Velvet Underground also has to do with the importance of the New York City Media, and periodicals like Rolling Stone Magazine. They will always push the New York City based bands to the fore, and usually ignore everyone else. That's one of the things I liked about the Athens scene. They didn't make the rules there. I don't really want my access to music determined by people in New York City.

    Saying you like Lou Reed or the Velvet Underground is like wearing that black leather jacket. You don't wanna be mistaken for a goody two shoes. You want people to look at your record and think "this guy is kinda dangerous, maybe sick, but in a cool way like James Dean". I'm thinking about who the successful people are who have sung the praises of Lou Reed, and then listen to their records back to back to back, and you know what I hear? A bunch of good music that all sounds quite unlike the other Reed fan's music, and his in turn is different from the next so called Reed fan's music, and none of which actually sounds all that much like Reed or the Velvets in the first place. And the other thing I know? I have heard more, absolutely crappy music (crappy for 1,000 reasons) and those jokers ALSO claim they love Lou Reed and listen to nothing but the Velvets.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2018
  7. dallasblues

    dallasblues Tele-Meister

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    It's always hard to determine who begat who when it comes to music. How do we know for sure who really influenced whom? Lots of bands tend to get lumped together in groups with names like "British Invasion, Indie, Grunge, College, Yacht Rock, Southern Rock" and so on. Sometimes they have stylistic similarities. Other times it's regional. Did one band spur a bunch of copycats? Or were there already lots of bands in a city that had a similar sound and one (or a few) got commercially successful, therefore giving the impression they started that sound?
     
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  8. Minimalist518

    Minimalist518 Tele-Afflicted

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    Fair enough, but that’s kind of the point of my inquiry. Lots of people were citing R.E.M. on another thread about “college music” (an almost uselessly broad category if there ever was one) and I got to wondering who else folks consider influential on the genre loosely grouped under Alternative or Indie Rock.
    I agree that these exercises are an artificially enforced order on creative chaos and can often devolve into revisionist history creating genres like “proto-Punk” where, at the time, there were none. But humans are categorizing, pattern-seeking social creatures craving community (you know, kind of like a Telecaster forum where many members don’t even own a Telecaster.)
    It’s how we understand our environment, our past and hold the tension of our individuality in relation to one another. So the exercise is not utterly without value or merit.
     
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  9. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    The way I tended to do things, was befriend various musicians, but especially guys who worked in record stores, and they knew the basics of what I said I liked and they'd hand me handfuls of records and I'd listen to all of it and take notes and buy some of the for sale records and return a few, and as to borrowed records I'd return those and get a copy for myself. I'd attend concerts, shows of bands I knew nothing about, but I was less interested in having a good time than I was interested in discovering new music.

    Wonderful that there's the Internet now and so many means to learn about new music, but the inevitable, negative side of this is, nobody in the world has enough time to listen to everything. And so, people give up on trying to gather the gist of the Universe, and they switch over and try to create a sort of Organizational Framework with their time instead. I kinda miss the emphasis on the music - playing it and listening to it.
     
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  10. Mike Eskimo

    Mike Eskimo Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Music is as much about when you heAr it as it is what you’re hearing.

    When : I heard VU waaaaay after I had heard tons of other stuff like the Stooges, Bowie and Eno and a load of other stuff. It didn’t make much of an impact.

    What : I heard the wrong album. The banana record. I’m from Detroit man. Can’t play me that record with the racist German chick - what am I supposed to do with that ? Then I heard the mopey pale blue eyes record...:rolleyes:
    Had someone played me white light/white heat, which I think is tremendous, I would have gotten into the other stuff I’m sure.

    This is a good thread . I like your threads . Sorry for contributing to the derail.
     
  11. Sollipsist

    Sollipsist Tele-Afflicted

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    Not to be reductive, but me & all my friends who got into REM in the mid 80s were simply looking for something as different as possible from mainstream music. So the actual sound or influences didn't matter as much - REM didn't have a lot to do with hardcore punk, ska, Kraftwerk, industrial music or gothic music... except that you were likely to find people who were into any or all of them.

    The Smiths were (in a way) the British REM. They were a lot alike, despite being very different :D
     
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  12. CK Dexter Haven

    CK Dexter Haven Friend of Leo's

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    If I understand correctly you are winding down your law career?

    Have you consider a second career in musicology? your ability to dismiss what you find lacking in a crushing "remove yourself from my presence" way just reeks of the condescension that is so valued by second-rate academics that I'm sure you would fit in and do well.
     
  13. Minimalist518

    Minimalist518 Tele-Afflicted

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    I don’t think interest in a genre necessarily precludes developing eclectic tastes; the less so where the genre definitions are broad or blurry. Other than semantics, is there any difference between my saying I sought out Punk and Post-Punk records back in the day and you saying that your record store friends and mentors “knew the basics of what I liked” and this informed the choice of records they recommended you?
    Both practices are based upon characterization. One is widely applied, the other is individual, but both are necessarily bound by parameters of sound, feel and style of music tailored to what one already enjoys. Both are as broad or as narrow as the necessarily randomness of the parameters and quirks of personal taste makes them or who is drawing up the list.
    In my case, since few bands, if any, ever consciously declared themselves Post-Punk, the genre was (as, frankly Punk was before it) a pretty broad catch-all. It just had to be rock music after and, in some way, informed by Punk. So I had quite the array to choose from. Also, I never just stuck to one genre. I think that’s true of most real music fans.
    That said, I’m with you in missing the happenstance of going to see a random band or discovering music through recommendation. I’ve benefited from odd pairings of headliner and opener as well as from mixed tapes passed on by friends. I also used to find new bands by looking at label-mates, common producers, even the larger music scene in cities of acts I enjoyed.
    I do agree that the Internet provides an overwhelming embarrassment of riches that can discourage even as it potentially offers nearly literally every kind of music ever imagined and recorded by humankind. Folks can be forgiven in the face of this vastness for retreating to tribes defined by strict genre or using algorithms to sort through music in a manner conducive to their comfort zone, but they are missing out. These days I avoid the trap of provincialism by maintaining about five distinct Pandora stations. This keeps my musical exposure suitably catholic.
     
  14. Manual Slim

    Manual Slim Friend of Leo's

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    I heard the VU well before I ever read anything about them. Those first two albums warped my little mind and tastes.
     
  15. 2 Headed Goat

    2 Headed Goat Friend of Leo's

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    I think perhaps the reason R.E.M. is often cited as being the catalyst for what was dubbed college radio and ushering in the alternative scene in the early 90's was they took the punk DIY ethic but turned it on its ear by dropping all the anger/aggression, adding some factor of intelligence thus inspiring others to form bands. What I mean by punk DIY ethic is the 'one doesn't have to be a highly competent on an instrument to play or be in a band'. IIRC, Peter Buck in interviews said he just basically picked up a guitar and a party and had a go with it.
    His lack of ability initially on the instrument worked as a strength in the form of simple, melodic and minimalist bits as on 'The One I Love'.
    I think this is why they had such a huge influence. Sure other bands did this but not at this point in time - mid to late '80's and that's the time period that's relevant in this thread, not the early 70's...
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2018
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  16. Whatizitman

    Whatizitman Friend of Leo's

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    This is kinda how I see it. REM definitely had influences, and were very open about them, but they had their own thing going. There were tons of lo-fi, garage, small label, underground, frat band, whatevers in any college town. But something about REM hit a nerve with a lot of folks. Something about their songs and sound that just "worked". They weren't punk, but they weren't not punk, either. They sounded good despite being lo-fi. They had pop hooks, but goofy esoteric lyrics. They could drive a song, but only sparingly used power chords. They could do the Byrds and Petty jangle, but not sound too hokey or country. They had all the art-school cred, but they weren't as brash as Talking Heads. They could be brooding, but didn't dress like vampires. Subtle and understated. Yet not boring. That's a rare gift. A bunch of art-school nerds. Yet there was just nothing cliche or pretentious about them. They weren't trying to be uber dark, doom and gloom, gothy, new romantic, edgy, etc... They were just REM. Maybe they were just a breath of fresh air.

    They had nothing major labels or general audiences were conditioned to want. People loved them in spite of that. Maybe because of that. Yet they were still good and recognizable. They had what plenty of other musicians wanted. There were tons of REM knock-offs. REM didn't knock off anyone, I think because they didn't think they could. Read the liner notes about Crazy. Peter Buck said that right after they recorded Chronic Town, he heard Pylon's new recording, and was really depressed that it wasn't as good as Pylon's recording. Well, I've never heard a cover of a song as good as REM's cover of Crazy. It stands on its own. It's about as REM as it gets. It puts the original to shame IMO.

    What role did they play in the 90s punk/grunge/powerpop/alterna-whatever explosion? They were legit, period. They were not poseurs. They weren't trying to fit a genre, or to define themselves categorically. They were the OG indie band. The one indie band that everyone knew about, but yet was still indie. The band all other "indie" bands were judged against. The 90s were a direct rebellion against Poison and Bon Jovi. Who better to be heralded as the godfathers than the original anti-rock-yet-not-really-anti-rock rock band?

    The great irony being that by the time the 90s came around, all of us hardcore REM fans had moved on. REM didn't really fit the 90s any more than U2 or Peter Gabriel did, IMO. OTOH, Neil Young could have skipped the 80s (and almost tried to), but was right out in front with Pearl Jam.
     
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  17. Jerry J

    Jerry J Friend of Leo's

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    Ain't that the truth! And that applies to both the good and the bad with each.
     
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  18. Jerry J

    Jerry J Friend of Leo's

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    As for the the 80's v. 90's thing, I feel that culturally decades don't strictly keep with the calendar. They kind of spill over into one another, so an album released in 90 or even 92 can still sound like the 80's to me.

    OBTW - I agree with your entire post! I love REM and gosh-darn, I even like Shiny, Happy People. It's infectious and I learned how to play it just to annoy my sons! It may not have the greatest lyrics, but I like the guitar parts on it.
     
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  19. bodevelho

    bodevelho Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    From a southern-california-university-circa-mid-80s viewpoint I thought REM was a little late to the party. Not to diminish REM or the Athens-scene,but there was a boatload of music (from both sides of the pond) from even the late 70s that was pointing the direction.
     
  20. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    There's really only two kinds of music- good music and bad music. We all get to define "good" and "bad" for ourselves (although a lot of folks let others do it for them). I think genre labels are one of the worst things about music- they only exist for record company stooges and their radio flunkies to move product.

    For me, the first VU record helped me realize that music didn't have to sound "good" to anybody else to sound "good" to me.
     
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