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September 28, 1994 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Is

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'Monster' of a release

By TOM ERLEWINE
For several years now, R.E.M. has
been promising that their next record
would be a "rock" record and that they
would tour. Now, a full five years after
their last tour and a good six years since
they have recorded any music that was

driven by electric guitars, the band has
released "Monster," a record that is
drenched with distortion and filled with
pulsating rhythms. In short, it rocks.
But not in the way that you would
expect.
In the past, all of the drive in
R.E.M.'s rhythm came from the thun-
dering drumming of Bill Berry. On
"Monster," Berry's drums are buried
in the mix, leaving Peter Buck to set the
place with his throbbing fuzz-toned
guitar. Buck's playing has always re-
lied on chiming chords and winding
single note lines. Over the years, his
playing has grown more versatile and
stylistically diverse, but he has never
sounded as muscular and agile as he
does on "Monster." Filtering his guitar
through stacks of effects, his guitar is
alternately fluid and stuttering, creat-
ing thick walls of sheer sound. Buck's

guitar colors the entire feeling of the
record, from the bright sheen of the
single "What's the Frequency, Ken-
neth?" to the churning menace of the
Kurt Cobain tribute "Let Me In."
After several records of clear enun-
ciation and direct lyrics from Michael
Stipe, "Monster" marks the singer's
return to elliptical nature of his early
lyrics. Stipe's voice has sunk back into
the mix, yet he's singing better than
ever; he's capable of more expressive
singing, whether it's the tense, subtle
"King of Comedy" or the sensuality of
"Tongue." With the notable exception
of the "Let Me In," Stipe also is less
preoccupied with death and loss, pre-
ferring to celebrate emotions and rela-
tionships instead of mourning them.
However, thatdoesn'tmean "Mon-
ster" lacks emotional depth; within
R.E.M.'s love songs, there are enough
conflicted emotions, fear and humor to
make the songs resonate deeply. But
what makes the album great-and it is
great, notmerely good-is thatR.E.M.
expresses the emotions through the
music, not the lyrics. The music soars
and sighs in ways the band never has
before.
While most of their musical trade-
marks are still apparent - most nota-
bly Mike Mills' breathy harmonies and
melodic bass lines, Buck's winding
rhythms and Berry's propulsive drive
- the band works new sounds inside
their signature sound. Not only does

"Monster" break from the lush pop of
"Out of Time" or the haunting acous-
tic-based "Automatic for the People,"
it is also quite different from the folk-
rock of "Murmur" or theanthemic rock
of "Document." Instead, the band rev-
els in making noise, but not like the
cathartic noise of most of today's alter-
native rock, but like the trashy glam
rock of Bowie and T. Rex crossed with
the joyously energetic kick of punk.
There is noangston "Monster," neither
in the music nor in the lyrics.
Within this new colorful frame-
work, R.E.M. turns in some of their
best songs, as well as some of the
finest, most creative sounds they have
ever made. "Crush With Eyeliner," with
its sleazy distorted guitars and vocals,
is the filthiest thing they have ever
committed to tape. "Circus Envy" and
"Star 69" follow in the same direction,
while "Bang and Blame" and "I Took
Your Name" use their noise as punc-
tuation, accenting the intentof the songs.
The album-closing "You" is even more
impressive; driven by an Eastern-
sounding guitar line and Stipe's threat-
ening vocals, it's the most frightening
song R.E.M. has written. But the most
impressive song on "Monster" is also
the quietest. "Tongue," with its spare
piano base courtesy of Mills, is a sen-
sual, erotic masterpiece that incorpo-
rates some subtle soul influences.
See R.E.M., Page 9

p

In a shot from their previous album, "Automatic for the People," R.E.M. has once again put out a masterpiece.
Dorris' topics and interests are eclectic

By KIRK MILLER
Michael Dorris just wrote an ar-
ticle on zucchini.
What might have been an odd topic
for some authors is nothing new for
Dorris, the celebrated author of the
half million sold "A Yellow Raft in
Blue Water" and various bestsellers
of short stories, non-fiction and yes,

zucchini articles.
"My topics are eclectic," he said.
"Personal essays, family portraits,
education, the way history works,
concerns about fetal alcohol syndrome
... factor in zucchini for 'Food and
Wine' and an article about a profes-
sional woman mover."
Recently Dorris started touring to

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promote "Working Men," a short sto
collection with many different narra-
tors and their revelations they take
from work. As in much of his work,
there is one story about Native Ameri-
cans, a subject he has come back to
several times in all of his work.
"I'm mixed blood (French, Modoc
and Irish)," he explained. "I grew up
in part in reservations." Dorris stud-
ied anthropology in college and did
field work in Alaska; before long 1
moved on and was teaching Native
American studies. In 1972 he founded
'My topics are eclectic
... Personal essays,
family portraits,
education, the way
history works,
concerns about fetal
alcohol syndrome
factor in zucchini ...
and an article about a
professional woman
mover.'
- Michael Dorris
the Native American Studies program
at Dartmouth, post he helped to run
for ten years before concentrating full
time on writing.
All of this has helped his writing
be more historically accurate. His new
children's novel "Guests" is told from
the point of a young Native American
boy reacting to the arrival of Euro-
pean settlers into his daily routin
Dorris was able to use his years of
research and teaching to create a vivid
description of the thoughts and feel-
ings a young Native American boy
would be going through, a point of
view that is very hard to come across
in most books set in the same period.
In this way he was also able to avoid
writing down to his audience.
"I wrote it in the first person," he
explained. "You get into a person
head, and you use that imagery. Put
yourself in that perspective andit
obviously limits the vocabulary."
The success of his work has trans-
lated to other fields. He recently be-
came a featured staff writer and book
reviewer for the "L.A. Times Book
Review." A movie version of "A Yel-
low Raft in Blue Water," directed by
John Sayles ("Eight Men Out"), is i
the works; his non-fiction work "The
Broken Cord" (a National Book Crit-
ics Circle nonfiction book of the year
in 1989) was already an award-win-
ning ABC movie. Dorris discounts
the television version.

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