Three Best R.E.M. Songs

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(L-R) R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Peter Buck (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, news came from R.E.M.‘s website that they’ve decided to break up. Having been been a fan since my friend from Boston introduced me to Murmur in 1980, I’ve kept pretty close track of what they’ve been doing. When I say this, I say it with love: I was pretty sure they’d already broken up sometime around 1992, a few years before they signed that huge contract with Warner Bros. and became, basically, irrelevant.

Can’t fault ‘em for taking the money (you and I would, too) nor can we blame them for becoming something of a “remember them when” dinosaur (‘cuz any band that means anything to anyone that lasts more than 10 years will eventually outgrow what is hip. It’s the temporal nature of rock and roll.)

Back in March, with the help of my then 10-year old, I proffered my opinion on what is their best three songs. In light of their dissolution — which I figure will last until the reunite for Super Bowl 2020 — here’s another look at that list.

For the record, I think it’s still on the mark … and shows that, maybe, they weren’t completely out of touch.

#3 “Supernatural, Superserious” (from Accelerate): Young Fusion 10.5 was unequivocal in his opinion, claiming “Supernatural, Superserious” should land at Number 3 on the list. “Really cool guitar, really weird lyrics,” were his observations. For him, it’s the song that introduced him to the band. For me, it shows the band had returned to form so I can’t disagree too vehemently.

#2 “Cuyahoga” (from Life’s Rich Pageant): Fusion 10.5 (also known as Sky) voted for “Exhuming McCarthy” as the second best R.E.M. song, an admirable choice for it’s acute portrayal of political paranoia (not at all out of fashion, I might mention). But, I used my seniority to overrule him, pointing to “Cuyahoga” as a universally better song. I prefer it for its edgy instrumentation: its feel like a powerful river that runs through childhood, the rapids that carry us into adulthood too quickly. (I got a blank stare from Sky with that description.)

#1 “Fall on Me” (also from Life’s Rich Pageant): Fusion 10.5 and Fusion 45 are in complete agreement here. “Fall on Me” is the most intensely-beautiful 2 minutes and 50 seconds in the R.E.M. repertoire. Though Michael Stipe has at various times said the song is about causes and/or oppression and/or the environment, the beauty of the lyrics is that they’re completely open to interpretation. Musically, Stipe has never sung better and Mike Mills counter melody is without parallel. A song of which I’ve never tired … and a beautiful video, too.

How do your picks stack up against ours? Find more ‘Three Best Songs’ for other artists here.;

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