Song of the Day #1,389: ‘Begin the Begin’ – R.E.M.

Best Albums of the 80s – #14
Lifes Rich Pageant – R.E.M. (1986)

Given the spotty output of R.E.M. over the past 15 years, it’s easy to forget what a force they were in the 80s and early 90s. But no band better defined the alternative movement — and particularly how musical integrity could lead to mainstream success.

Five R.E.M. albums had a shot at this list, with three in the running right up until I finalized things. In the end, two made the cut. And first up is Lifes Rich Pageant.

This album stands out in R.E.M.’s catalog as the first time you could actually understand what Michael Stipe was saying. And it wasn’t just his diction that was clearer… the music had a tighter, more muscular sound. The record provided a glimpse of the arena rock band R.E.M. would become.

Lifes Rich Pageant kicks off with one of the best 1-2-3 punches I’ve ever heard. First up is ‘Begin the Begin,’ with a feedback-drenched opening riff that drops you right into the world of the album. Then comes the anthemic ‘These Days,’ another driving rocker, before things slow down for fan favorite ‘Fall On Me,’ which boasts one of Stipe’s most soaring choruses.

Things don’t exactly fall off from there. Lesser-known gems such as ‘I Believe,’ ‘Cuyahoga’ and ‘Flowers of Guatemala’ introduce new textures and themes, making this the band’s most sonically adventurous and politically charged album to that point.

Birdie in the hand for life’s rich demand
The insurgency began and you missed it
I looked for it and I found it
Miles Standish proud, congratulate me

A philanderer’s tie, a murderer’s shoe
Life’s rich demand creates supply in the hand
Of the powers, the only vote that matters

Silence means security silence means approval
On Zenith, on the TV, tiger run around the tree
Follow the leader, run and turn into butter

Let’s begin again, begin the begin
Let’s begin again like Martin Luther Zen
The mythology begins the begin

Answer me a question I can’t itemize
I can’t think clearly, look to me for reason
It’s not there, I can’t even rhyme here in the begin

A philanderer’s tie, a murderer’s shoe
Example: the finest example is you

Birdie in the hand for life’s rich demand
The insurgency began and you missed it
I looked for it and I found it
Miles Standish proud, congratulate me

A philanderer’s tie, a murderer’s shoe
Let’s begin again begin the begin
Let’s begin again.

About these ads

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,389: ‘Begin the Begin’ – R.E.M.

  1. pegclifton says:

    I just love their sound even if I can’t understand what he’s saying :)

  2. Dana says:

    While I have consistently said that this album is outranked by other REM efforts such as Automatic for the People, it certainly belongs amongst the top 5, and maybe top 3 of their albums overall. Good pick, and I look forward to seeing the one you rank higher (though I think I know what it is:))

  3. Amy says:

    As you well know, R.E.M. = 80’s music for me. This is the first band for which I felt a true sense of “ownership.” This song isn’t just wonderful; it’s electric. These albums (LRP and Fables) would likely be at the top of my list for reasons having little to do with the music itself. That said…. the music! Oh, the music. I just love it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s