My Top 1000 Songs #310: Electrolite
Yeah, I could just go all day long filling up the list with tracks from the first few R.E.M. albums... but where's the fun in that? Fortunately, while their work from their Warner Brothers era wasn't the life-changing force for me that their early IRS Records releases were, there are plenty of great latter-day songs to be found. And for some reason, "Electrolite," off 1996's New Adventures In Hi-Fi--their last album with drummer Bill Berry, and the last album for which I still have great personal affinity (though there was still some fine work in the post-Berry years)--has always had a strong emotional tug.
Far from the Rickenbacker jangle of yore, it's a piano-driven tune, reminiscent of "Nightswimming" (from 1992's Automatic For The People), but moving at a brighter clip, hustling along on a percolating guiro percussion bit. Lyrically, it's a blend of the usual poetic vagaries and some striking SoCal/Hollywood imagery, but something about those random references to Mulholland Drive and Martin Sheen and Steve McQueen feels just incisively cool. According to legend, Michael Stipe wasn't a huge fan and didn't want to include the song on the album; and, sure, its quiet beauty contrasts a bit with some of New Adventures' more sonically adventurous escapades, but as an outlier in the catalog up to that point there's a singular charm to it that keeps me coming back. (Plus it's a lovely, accessible-to-all tune that's perfect for mixtapes and playlists.)Live post-Berry: