Song of the Day #3,310: ‘Harborcoat’ – R.E.M. vs. Bob Dylan

Ah, here we have my first truly difficult Round Three pick in Montauk Madness. R.E.M. vs. Bob Dylan. Two acts I’ve loved and obsessed over since the tenth grade.

R.E.M. got here by unanimously defeating Stew in Round One then winning a surprisingly tight contest against Rihanna with just 55% of the vote. Bob Dylan had an easier path, besting Miranda Lambert with 78% then Eminem with 89%. I’m still pissed the random sorting put Lambert in that position.

R.E.M.’s discography breaks into three distinct eras for me. You have the early years, from Chronic Town through Document. Then the popular years, Green through New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Finally the post-Bill Berry years, Up through Collapse Into Now and their breakup.

If I focus in on the first group, really dive into those albums the way I did when I was a kid, I will pick R.E.M. against anybody in this contest. The mood evoked by Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction and Life’s Rich Pageant, especially, is as transporting and transcendent as anything ever committed to tape.

The middle period is wonderful in its own way, particularly the lush romanticism of Automatic for the People and about half of Out of Time.

The less said about the third period, the better. It lasts the longest and offers the weakest material.

I won’t go into the many periods in Bob Dylan’s career, which have been good and bad, great and awful, but it’s amazing that at 76 years old he’s in the middle of one of the most interesting and critically acclaimed spans right now.

In the end, despite the beautiful, essential work of early R.E.M., I have to go with the more complete and culture-shaping output of Bob Dylan.

They crowded up to Lenin with their noses worn off
A handshake is worthy if it’s all that you’ve got
Metal shivs on wood push through our back
There’s a splinter in your eye and it reads “REACT”

They shifted the statues for harboring ghosts
Reddened their necks, collared their clothes
Then we ditched the books with the middles cut out
She gathered the corners and called it her gown

Please find my harborcoat, can’t go outside without it
Find my harborcoat, can’t go outside without it

They crowded up to Lenin with their noses worn off
A handshake is worthy if it’s all that you’ve got
Metal shivs on wood push through our back
There’s a splinter in your eye and it reads “REACT”, R-E-A-C-T

They shifted the statues for harboring ghosts
Reddened their necks, collared their clothes
Then we ditched the books with the middles cut out
She gathered the corners and called it her gown

She said…

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,310: ‘Harborcoat’ – R.E.M. vs. Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    I’m surprised this is so close for you or that it brings more consternation than yesterday’s showdown of two great bands, either of which would get my vote over R.E.M.

    I was a fan of R.E.M. through the first two periods you describe, but they completely lost me in that third period (and arguably started to lose me with New Adventures…)

    As for Dylan, I haven’t kept up with him as you have, but over his long legendary career, he’s had his share of clunkers (That’s right, I’m returning the barb you made about Billy Joel!) Still, he’s friggin’ BOB DYLAN, without whom there may never have been an R.E.M. or countless other great artists inspired by Dylan.

    So, for me, this one is relatively easy. It’s Dylan.

  2. Peg says:

    Easy for me too Nobel Prize winner all the way

  3. Amy says:

    While I could easily vote for Dylan for all the reasons voiced above, I’m making the personal pick for R.E.M. To thank them for the music that was the essential and ever present soundtrack of my early college years. “Green Grow the Rushes” transports me in an instant. While I adore many of Bob Dylan’s songs, none has the ability to transport me in that same way.

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