It’s hard to describe how much a breath of fresh air Murmur was in 1983. Punk was a spent force and spandex clad hair bands were beginning their mighty popular rise -- a force that would go unabated for over 10 years (thanks Nirvana!) As with most 20 year olds college kids at the time, I was discovering all the punk and post-punk I missed living as a teenager in suburban flyover land. However there wasn’t much that was new, that I could call my own. Then came Murmur.
To be honest, I don’t remember exactly where or when I first heard Murmur but I do remember being pretty much an early adopter of the band. It really was something that you never heard before. Finally a band that belonged to you and your friends and not to a bunch of jaded old punks, self-important baby boomers, or long-haired hippies. Critics talked about “jangly” guitars like the Byrds but I never heard that. It was dreamy, atmospheric with lyrics that were indecipherable and the lyrics you could hear didn’t make any sense. Here is the first verse of Radio Free Europe:
Beside yourself if radio's gonna stay.
Reason: it could polish up the grey.
Put that, put that, put that up your wall
That this isn't country at all
Don’t worry Michael Stipe doesn’t know what it means either.
Any band can do dreamy and atmospheric but what makes someone want to listen over and over again is that the songs have to be good, even if you can’t understand the lyrics, and Murmur is full of good songs. Radio Free Europe was the big hit of course even if Cities 97 has played it to death. Pilgrimage, Talk About the Passion, and Shaking Through have always been favorites. Catapult has a perfect bass guitar and drum opening that’s never been done before or since. Mike Mills was the most accomplished musician at the time the album was recorded (bring it you Pete Buck defenders!) and you can tell as the bass work is exquisite. Michael Stipe’s voice really is a 4th instrument and the arcane lyrics add to the moodiness.
A great example of Stipe’s vocal work is in Talk about the Passion. During the end of the second verse there are strings accompanying Peter Buck’s guitar. It repeats its refrain and then Stipe’s vocal humming comes in right with the strings and you literally cannot tell where the strings end and the vocals begin. Truly an amazing song. Peter Buck’s guitar on Shaking Through is simple yet adds a complexity to the song as it complements the vocals and a piano.
I’ve enjoyed this album for nearly 30 years and I cannot even think of not having it for another 30, it’s simply that good. The songs have many layers and can be uplifting when you need a jolt or quiet when you need some introspection time. You can focus on a specific musician or have the songs wash over you like a shower. Regardless of what kind of music you like, this is one album that crosses genres and should be in everyone’s collection.
Although this album was released in 1979, I really didn’t hear it until 1981, however it came at a key point in my life. In 1981, popular music generally sucked and I was tired of the Journeys, Styx, and Bad Companys, etc., that ruled the airways. I had basically given up listening to what was popular at the time and was more interested in stuff from the 60’s. Then I heard Pretenders. For the first time I heard music that was really good but wasn’t being played on the radio or talked about a whole lot in popular culture. Hearing this album opened my ears (and my eyes) to a whole (what was then) new subculture of cool, cool music.
The album kicks off with Precious and right from the beginning you know you are in for a thrill ride. Crissie Hynde's tough-chick-in-a-red-leather-jacket spin on the whole Madonna-Whore thing is evident throughout the album but this song just oozes sexuality. Remember this is 1981 (for me) and girls didn’t sing in rock bands generally, and they sure as heck didn’t say "Not me baby, I'm too precious...ah F**k Off!" like Crissie Hynde does at the end of this song. Tattoed Love Boys and especially The Wait were also in-your-face, sexually-charged rockers. In fact The Wait still gives me goosebumps some 30 years later (although the single version is even rawer than the version found on the album – yes I have both versions).
The album wasn’t all just rockin’ guitars and drums as songs like Kid, Stop Your Sobbin’ and Brass in Pocket were all pretty good songs at a slower tempo. Stop Your Sobbin’ and Brass and Pocket were especially nice because the co-eds liked them too -- which is important when you’re in college trying to impress the ladies with your record collection.
Musically this album is pretty advanced for a debut. James Honeyman-Scott’s guitar work really anchors the album and his style is still being copied today but the star of the show was Crissie Hynde. She was tough and vulnerable: the kind of girl who would take your legs off on a Saturday night, but also someone you could bring home to your mother on a Sunday afternoon.
This album saved me musically and without it I’d probably be into the Dave Mathews Band or be excited about the fact that Genesis has a new box set. For that reason Pretenders gets to kick off my review of classic rock albums.
Hey there, friends of Gleeman.
Seven years ago, SBG (Stick and Ball Guy) started The WGOM, and in time, it became a thriving community of about 50-60 regulars who talk music, film, beer, the Timberwolves, the brewing of beer, literature, art, soccer and beer. First and foremost, however, it's about the love of the Twins.
Last week, SBG decided to stop wearing the hat of blog administrator for a number of reasons, but he didn't want to see the community go away. The site you see here is the culmination of a lot of us regulars creating a new home that runs a little faster and relieves SBG of his ludicrous workload.
Anyway, have a look around. The Cup of Coffee (right sidebar) is where we talk each day about whatever's on our minds. You can find a list of our features at the top of the site, and if you have any questions about anything, you can register here and ask away (registration is free and takes seconds). The main courses are our game logs, and you can find the running commentary on last night's win right here.
Have fun. We'll try to make ourselves presentable.
It's different and all, but we've attempted to keep what's important.
Make yourself comfortable, Citizens. Posts on conduct (which regulars know already; nothing has changed) and who to contact with creative (me (the Milkman)) and technical (sean and possibly others) questions are forthcoming.
In the meantime, assume your game logs and special features carry over.