R.E.M. – SITTING STILL
R.E.M.? I’ll happily listen to anything from those IRS years. So simple, crisp, and jangly. They were rural yet sophisticated, with great songs and instrumentation, and a singer who led you down kudzu-entangled roads with lyrics that you probably misunderstood but surely your interpretation was closer to correct than anyone else’s.
There were many great songs in those early years, but I chose this one because from the first time I heard it I thought, “Man, I wish I had written that!” Like their other tunes, it was smart & catchy, and had a distinctly Southern feel which was refreshing and comfortable, and the non-linear & indecipherable lyrics proved that a song didn’t need to make literal sense to be moving and effective.
This one also helped cement my apathy toward the technical prowess of skilled musicians. Not that R.E.M. weren’t technically proficient, but I realized that I’d grown more fond of hearing groups who barely knew what they were doing conjure up something unique, than sitting through more than a minute or two of someone doing everything “properly,” and this song really sealed the deal – I would pretty much never again have any interest in most “popular” music. ‘Sitting Still’ made me a music snob!
I love the way the guitar shifts effortlessly from the shimmery picking to the subtle power chords and back again. The bass is carefree but propulsive, and the whole thing feels to me like an autumn Sunday afternoon. It’s a great song from a great American band, and what in the world is that shrill, distorted whistle-sound that comes in on the last refrain?