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New Adventures In Hi Fi


New Adventures In Hi Fi is a slow burner, in that its riches aren’t immediately apparent on a casual or cursory listening. It requires living with for a while, some ‘getting into’, as they used to say. Recorded almost entirely on the road during the band’s last world tour, many of the songs seem to have evolved out of improvisatory soundchecks, and this lends the work a pleasing looseness, especially in comparison with their last offering, the studio-bound, over-perfectionistic Monster.




There were conflicting reports about this one, with some people liking it and others loathing it, some calling it a masterpiece, others a major disappointment. In actuality, it is neither, and it probably provoked such extreme reactions in the first place because of the level of expectation which preceded its release. We are talking about the biggest band in the world here, after all, in the meshing of both the artistic and the commercial strands, at least. That is, they have received both popular and critical acclaim.
They have retained their wide-ranging breath and their depth of expression, and can rock out raucously and be sparingly plaintive, in accordance with their mood, or the one they are trying to evoke. Stipe’s lyrics remain for the most part impenetrable, and it is almost impossible to know what he is on about most of the time. But we don’t expect rock lyrics to give us profound insights into the human condition anymore, now do we? No, we expect them to contribute to the overall ambience.
Stand out tracks are: ‘The Wake-Up Bomb’; ‘E-Bow The Letter’ (a duet with one of their long-time heroines, and mine, Patti Smith); ‘Departure’; ‘Be Mine’; and ‘Electrolite’.
Personally, I favour middle-period REM, songs like ‘Cuyahuga’ or ‘Hairshirt’, from Life’s Rich Pageant and Green respectively, when they were still poised between being merely competent and being ruthlessly proficient. Still, they have written at least one song which has passed into the language, and will still be being performed in 50 years’ time, ‘Everybody Hurts’. (One can just imagine Sinatra, or one of his copyists, giving it the big production in Las Vegas.) New Adventures In Hi Fi is a valuable contribution to their already impressive oeuvre.

First published in 46A













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