It’s as if Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry invited me over to help assemble their parting shot, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, a collection of tracks from the band’s entire catalog. They listened when I said they ought to include “So. Central Rain” and “[Don’t Go Back] Rockville,” both from Reckoning, which I feel is as strong an album as many others from the Athens, Georgia, group. Then they agreed to select “Begin the Begin” from Life’s Rich Pageant. The rest of disc one came easily as we walked through Document, Green, and Automatic for the People.
Then we started working on disc two. I got us as far as “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” from Monster. But as they turned to me for my next thought, the blood rushed to my face, I was extremely warm with embarrassment as I had to admit that after this point, I only somewhat caught their new stuff. I was ready to go with “Supernatural Superserious” from Accelerate (2008), but Stipe, Buck, Mills, and Berry just looked at me incredulously. Stipe says, “What about the albums in between? Don’t you know New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), Up (1998), Reveal (2001), Around the Sun (2004), and finally Collapse Into Now (2011)?”
“I don’t,” I had to admit. Things were quiet and awkward until Buck says, “Well, we won’t take it personally. Instead, let’s give you a primer. In fact, Part Lies… will be a primer for everyone.” With that, we go to the studio, instruments are readied, and I get a chance to hear them play live all of these tunes for disc two, the tunes I didn’t know from these albums I didn’t know. Disc two would be my souvenir from the experience.
If R.E.M. had invited me over, that’s probably what would’ve happened. Meanwhile, I’ve got a great collection of my favorites (disc one) and that souvenir primer (disc two).