Album Review::Finest Worksongs-Athens bands play the music of R.E.M.

R.E.M. is a band that has meant a lot to me over the years. For a long time, my friends and I could only understand about half of Michael Stipe’s lyrics. However, we were able to simulate all the sounds he was making, and most importantly we knew how those songs made us feel. I couldn’t pick a favorite album between Reckoning, Murmur, Life’s Rich Pageant, Chronic Town, Fables … I’ve played them all more times than I can count. I’m sure a lot of us have.

A band with so many great records deserves a tribute. Last September, Athens Georgia gave their patron saints just such an event at the 40 Watt club. It was a night of Athens musicians doing R.E.M. songs, with the added bonus of members of R.E.M. making special appearances throughout the night. The result is immortalized on Finest Worksongs-Athens bands play the music of R.E.M.

Some of the artists chose to do their own interpretations of the songs, while others remained faithful to the originals. Of the many highlights are my favorite Athens musician Patterson Hood recounting his first R.E.M. show in 1984 as an intro to his take on Second Guessing. Five Eight do a heartfelt parody of Driver 8 – Fiver 8, changing the lyrics to tell what it meant to them to play on a west coast stint of R.E.M.’s Now It’s Overhead tour. The night ended with everyone joining in with all the members of R.E.M., to do a raucous It’s the end of the world as we know it.

The liner notes mention how special the night was, and how there is no point in trying to articulate the experience. From listening to Finest Worksongs, I can at least imagine what an amazing night it was for all the artists to play with the band present. R.E.M. ended up playing two songs themselves, with Bill Berry drumming which in itself must have been something to behold. All in all, Finest Worksongs is a nice document of a special night in what I consider the coolest music town in America. I only wish I had been there. Ah hell, I’d seriously be living there if I thought I could get a job doing something other than restaurant work.

leaving new york(five-eight) and perfect circle(modern skirts) are on the player
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