It has been a rather tragic last month. Steve Jobs, Jagjit Singh and Dennis Ritchie (no, not Denise Richards) all dead. A lot has been written and said about their deaths - and they were the numero uno in their respective fields. For me personally, however, none of these deaths has had a very specific impact. I have never used Apple except for the Ipod Nano - and I am pretty happy to own it, but I was as happy with the Creative MP3 player I had before. I do not quite understand the aesthetics which make Apple products in general, and Steve Jobs in particular, such a rage everywhere. I think the loss of Jagjit Singh is a pretty big loss to the Ghazal world, but my Ghazal period is well past me now, and I do not think I was going to try any of his newer ghazals were they to come out. About Dennis Ritchie, I had no idea who he was until he died. I recoiled in horror when I thought that Denise Richards had died though, for who can get bored of that amazing Wild Things scene. And the less said of my programming skills the better.
But what cannot be denied is that the world is three amazing men short, and in today's world, where amazing people are hard to come by, it is a tragedy of the highest order.
In spite of all these tragedies abounding the world, the most tragic event in the previous month for me has been the decision of REM to call it a day.
I am by no means a passionate fan, for passion, as long term readers of this blog will testify, is not something I associate myself with. Even though REM is my favourite band, or so I like telling people, there are some songs I absolutely hate. How can anyone get through Shiny Happy People, Lotus or Swan Swan is beyond me. On the other hand, I love all songs of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Who or Dire Straits, to name some of the other bands I like. But my favourite band, I hasten to add, is still REM.
Perhaps its for reasons more than the music. I do not understand music to be very honest. I listen to music a lot, but I am unable to rate music as good or bad. In other words, I am not really able to appreciate music. I have never been really to appreciate AR Rehman or the music of Dev D for example. The only instrumentals I have ever been able to like are the Fifth Symphony, Jessica and the Doors' Symphony. I also have problem making my Ipod listing, for what I like is a function of external factors, and my mood.
But I digress. Had I been able to appreciate music I might have said that Buck is the god of guitar or something. Or that Stipes' vocals are what make him one of the underrated singers of our generation. Or that the reason for REM's success is that the whole is much greater than the sum of four talented - but not genius- musicians from Athens, Georgia. But I can make none of those claims. I can only claim that I love REM, and because music is not the reason I do it for, I can only hypothesize about the why of it.
I appreciate REM for the kind of legacy they have made in the industry, being totally independent, and still managing to make it big. I also appreciate their strong anti-right wing views. But those are just add on features - not enough to make them my favourite.
I probably like REM because it is a sad band. Just like me. They do a lot of happy songs, but inherently their greatest hits have been songs about losing or trying to find - feelings I can so well connect with, about being lonely in the company of people, about finding and losing love. In short, most of REM songs, I feel, are about me. I am a lot like the protoganist in a lot of REM songs, confused, but trying to find a way. He is not perfect, and there is something he is seeking, and the songs are about the journey.
Why is the band not more popular, I hear the skeptics among you say. It is because people do not know much beyond Losing My Religion when it comes to REM. So here is a list, one that you must listen to - a song of my favourite REM songs in no particular order:
a) Nightswimming - My first REM song, and one that hooked me instantly. Its a song about longing, probably about going back to one's childhood. About how, after a long hard day, all you ever want is to be a child again, and enjoy nightswimming, like years ago. Its also, at the same time, a song about lost love, and being betrayed. Or atleast that is what I think.
b) Ignoreland - A pure vitriol filled, right wing bashing political song. And one, which should become the anthem for anti-right forces come the 2014 elections. The way it starts "These bastards stole power from the victims of the us v. them years" is a precursor to how the right wing might emerge back into power, creating issues that were never there.
c) Find the River - These lyrics do not make any sense when you look at it. However, once you start appreciating Stipe's writing genius, you will probably recognize this song to be about starting a search to find the meaning of your life. It is a tough quest, but the protagonist is about to make that journey.
d) Everybody Hurts - What more can I say? A song that helped me through the darkest time of my life, and which nursed me back to good things. If there was one song that a man committing suicide should listen to, it is this.
e) At my most beautiful - Another example of REM awesomeness. A sweet love song, about how love makes you feel so good about yourself.
f) Strange Currencies - A song about unrequited love, and its truly amazing. I have been in the unrequited love stage a few times, and have researched bits about songs, and this is top of the heap, so take my word for it.
g) My Crush with Eyeliner - About proposing. About how to get a girl to like you. Sweet.
h) I've been High - Sample lyrics: "I've been high, but life, it still washes over me." "All I want, all I really want, is to live my life on a high". Need I say anything more? If you have been high, and disappointed even at that high state, this is the song for you. Legendary.
i) Whats the Frequency Kenneth - A middle class refrain to the youth. I can agree, after visiting places like TC, and seeing these 20 year old acting as if they own the world.
j) Losing My Religion - The most famous REM song by a distance. A song, again of unrequited love.
k) Electrolite - Ever felt like being totally alone and on the top of the world? This song captures that feeling.
l) Don't go back to Rockville - Replace Rockville with the required city name, and this song shall become the kind of song you will sing for someone who is leaving you and you run to the airport to ask them to get back. The kind of thing Ross does for Rachel, or the kind of foolish thing I have done.
m) Be Mine - A stalker song. But pretty sweet and corny.
I could go on and on, but this list should do for now. And when you are done, could you be cool enough to comment on your opinions about the band and the songs you listened to?
And yeah, thanks REM. I owe you a big one.