FFWDing to the Best Part: “Orange Crush,” R.E.M. (1988)

Jangle pop … jangle pop –- let the term sink in for a moment. According to the all-wise Wikipedia, jangle pop is an offshoot of ” … alternative rock from the mid-1980s that ‘marked a return to the chiming or jangly guitars and pop melodies of the ’60s’.”  The entry continues to attribute jangle pop to a late ’70s band out of Athens, Georgia named Pylon –- an influence that bled over to fellow Athens band R.E.M.

Why the definition of jangle pop? Honestly, I can see R.E.M. falling in this category, thanks to songs like “Stand” and “Shiny Happy People,” both of which give off a rather 60s Byrds-ish vibe. But not this song – not the neo-protest anthem “Orange Crush.” Most of you may know that the title of this song is a reference to Agent Orange, and some of you may know that lead singer (jangler?) Michael Stipe said that this song was about a soldier in the Vietnam War; hence the neo-protest label.

No matter the subject, no matter the label, Orange Crush takes the jangle out of R.E.M. (not completely — is it possible to remove the jangle from Michael Stipe’s and Mike Mills’ voices?) and injects a nice, heavy dose of guitar and drums. What’s that, you say? You only have about five seconds to get the essence of this song? Then skip ahead to the 2:42 mark and play it through the 2:47 mark.

This segment has it all; Mike Mills’ thumping bass, Bill Berry whacking away at the drums, and Peter Buck diving in with a solid guitar riff. Add on top of all this, Michael Stipe working a megaphone in the background and you have a great grab from this song, but that is the first couple of seconds. There is anger, there is intensity, and then … there is jangle. Stipe and Mills bring the vocals back with a heavy dose of a jangle duet. Turns out, these two could sing a duet with Slayer laying down the music and would make it sound a bit happy. Nevertheless, this five-second interlude shows the range that this jangle pop band had, they could open it up and let the guitars and drums rip when they wanted to make a point. That said, you just can’t take the jangle out of those voices.


Friday Lyric Quiz, #439 (In Which I Stand in the Place Where I Live)

In the world of music this week, R.E.M. broke up, which happened 25% of the way several years back when Bill Berry left behind the ones he loved. (Alternate bad R.E.M. joke: “Bill Berry decided it was the end of his R.E.M. world as he knew it, and he felt fine.”)

Still, the trio of Stipe, Buck, and Mills parted presumably amicably after more than three decades of making music that was thoughtful yet accessible.  Good old-fashioned rock with a hint of the South, a dash of folk, and just occasionally, a little bit of soul.

In the past year or so, I’d rediscovered R.E.M. and was digging their tunes (old and new) more than I ever had, quite frankly. Maybe it just all sounds so good compared to Jason Derulo.  Or my tastes are – dare I say it – maturing (still love ya, Ke$ha!  Stay sweet!)  Either way, the break-up doesn’t destroy me because they have one hell of a catalog to keep fans satisfied.

I never saw them live, but my brother Tyler did, back when you could get great tickets merely by being determined enough. Before StubHub and fan clubs and radio stations and Citibank ruined the entire business.  But I digress. Tyler and a pal, with parental permission (!), “camped out for tickets” (remember this phrase?) and secured ones in the second row.  Ty liked to say that Michael Stipe smiled at him, highlighted as he was (Tyler, not Stipe) by the iridescent glow of the “EXIT” sign.

Thanks for all the hits, guys. Enjoy retirement.

And what does this have to do with today’s lyric quiz?  Nothing at all, quite frankly, because it’s a random hodgepodge, as timing would dictate. But I’m trying to write a little more to my reader(s) these days, so bear with me.

Answers to Friday Lyric Quiz #439

1. “Rain comes pouring down, falling from blue skies, words without a sound coming from your eyes” (late 90s)

2. “Even the man in the moon disappeared, somewhere in the stratosphere” (late 2000s)

3. “I shoulda learned to play them drums. Look at that mama, she got it sticking in the camera, man, we could have some fun” (mid-80s)

4. “Now I know, that I had to borrow, beg and steal and lie and cheat” (early 2010s)

5. “Under the pale moon for so many years I’ve wondered who you are” (mid-90s)

6. “Mack like mayors, ball like Lakers, they told us to leave but bet they can`t make us” (late 90s)

7. “No one can find The rewind button, boys So cradle your head In your hands ” (mid-00s)

8. “One more shot for us, another round. Please fill up my cup, don’t mess around” (early 2010s)

9. “And I won’t take no if that’s your answer, at least, that’s my philosophy” (mid-80s)

10. “And follow me stereo jungle child, love is the kill, your heart’s still wild” (mid-80s)

Answers to Friday Lyric Quiz #438

1. “Watching X-Files with no lights on We’re dans la maison I hope the Smoking Man’s in this one” (late 90s)
One Week, Barenaked Ladies

2. “She rides with me – the new Bobby and Whitney, only time we don’t speak is during Sex and the City” (early 2000s)
Bonnie and Clyde ’03, Beyonce (f Jay-Z)

3. “The sun was spitting fire, the sky was blue as ice, I felt a little tired, so I watched Miami Vice” (late 80s)
Walk the Dinosaur, Was (Not Was)

4. “All your life is channel 13 Sesame Street What does it mean?” (early 80s)
Pressure, Billy Joel

5. “Women used to tease me give it to me now nice and easy, since I moved up like George and Weezie” (late 90s)
Getting Jiggy With It, Will Smith

6. “You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude” (mid-80s)
Kiss, Prince

7. “Choke up and focus on the close up, Mr. Wizard can’t perform no Godlike hocus-pocus” (late 90s)
Walking on the Sun, Smashmouth

8. “Fell deep in love but now we ain’t speakin, Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton” (early 90s)
Summer Girls, LFO

9. “Everyone’s a superhero Everyone’s a Captain Kirk” (early 80s)
99 Red Balloons, Nena

10. “Black in the saddle, lookin for a little affection, I took a shot as a contestant on ‘The Love Connection'” (late 80s)
Funky Cold Medina, Tone Loc