Single Of The Week
Single Of The Week is where I review a single I'm particularly enamoured of at the moment. It might be a brand spanking new release, or a classic from decades past that I just feel like going on about.

SELECTED 01/05/01

Imitation Of Life

Actually, I've never purchased an REM single before. I have a smattering of their albums dating back to Out Of Time (mostly purchased at bargain-bin prices, it must be admitted), and I've followed their career with interest through the seemingly endless series of profiles in Q. But until now I've never been tempted by one of their singles, even though one of my occasional complaints about the band is that they're not consistent enough on their albums.

So why now? Obviously it doesn't hurt that the single is being sold for $5.95 as part of a promotional push. Nor does it hurt that, as every critic and associated canines have noted, the sound REM is pursuing here owes more to their melodic (and commercial) peak around the time of Automatic For The People and Out Of Time than to their more experimental guises of recent times. Michael Stipe's lyrics are as impenetrable as ever, and the whole thing moves along with assurance and a sense of purpose that I never noticed when I heard 'Lotus'.

The other comparison that keeps getting made in relation to this single is that between U2 and REM. The argument is that both bands are reverting to their most commercially successful sound after a series of dud albums that sold (by their standards) poorly. While this might be true, the devil's advocate in me can't help wondering if the corollary to this argument -- that they never should have abandoned their core sound -- is in fact true. Had either band continued spewing out arena anthems in the mid-90s, they might have been dismissed as irrelevant, instead of being dismissed as inaccessible. And they wouldn't get to make a comeback now in that case, would they?

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