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JulyDiaz

Around the Sun with Todd Barry

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Stand-up comedian and actor Todd Barry joins Adam Scott Aukerman as they roll up their sleeves to discuss R.E.M.’s thirteenth studio album, Around the Sun. Todd talks about sitting in with bands like Yo La Tengo as a drummer, when he first heard of R.E.M., and the times he rubbed shoulders with the band. Plus, they dive into In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, open up the ol’ mailbag, and Todd shares his Top 10 R.E.M. songs.

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Fun ep, excited to have Todd Barry there for it!

 

Around The Sun... yea, ugh. Hearing the songs one by one on the ep -- I kept thinking each one sounded ok by itself. But hearing them all together when I listened to the record as a whole for the first time in YEARS just doesn't work. There's no spark to these tracks. They're plain. There's no need or desire to listen to any of them again.

 

Is there anyone who doesn't consider this their worst record?

 

My current album rankings:

 

1. Automatic For The People

2. Fables Of The Reconstruction

3. New Adventures In Hi-Fi

4. Murmur

5. Reckoning

6. Out Of Time

7. Document

8. Monster

9. Up

10. Lifes Rich Pageant

11. Reveal

12. Green

13. Around The Sun

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Is there anyone who doesn't consider this their worst record?

 

 

Yep! (waves and ducks)

 

Although I appreciate that I'm in the minority. My least favourite album is the next one, Accelerate, which I find to be very dull.

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I can see that, actually. For me, there's a couple of Accelerate songs which save the whole thing, but I get that.

 

Didn't mean my question to be accusatory, if it came out that way. No shame here, this is a safe zone of REM opinions!

 

I just kind of was hoping someone could explain an affinity for Around The Sun to give me another perspective on it.

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I can see that, actually. For me, there's a couple of Accelerate songs which save the whole thing, but I get that.

 

Didn't mean my question to be accusatory, if it came out that way. No shame here, this is a safe zone of REM opinions!

 

I just kind of was hoping someone could explain an affinity for Around The Sun to give me another perspective on it.

 

All good, my friend. I'm not entirely sure why I like it so much. There's a melancholy that runs through the music and I think I really responded to that, especially as it was a Fall release. Some might say that 'downer' vibe could be a product of malcontent with the record, unhappiness between band members, frustration with the material and so forth. Or it could be a kind of post 9/11 malaise, a general vibe that I'm sure I noticed in a lot of bands who released music around the same time. But regardless of the source of that melancholy it still seems honest and sincere to me, while I wasn't quite convinced by the suppposedly upbeat, 'back-to-basics' vibe of Accelerate, like they were trying just a little too hard to appease the critics and 'atone' for ATS. There are still songs I like a lot on that album, such as Supernatural Superserious, Until the Day is Done, Sing for the Submarine, but overall I just couldn't get into it, while I found ATS much more immersive.

 

I guess I love all the albums really. But some I just love less than others, which sounds better than just talking in terms of worst.

 

By the way I'm glad to see Fables and New Adventures so high up on your list. So underrated, especially Fables.

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Is there anyone who doesn't consider this their worst record?

 

I don't quite, but it's a close thing. For me, Collapse Into Now, their last album, is unfortunately their worst. Nothing on it is better than "pretty good". Whereas this album has two very good songs, "Leaving New York" and "Around the Sun". I also like "The Outsiders" and "High Speed Train". Those four are worth re-listening to apart from the rest of the album. I agree with you that listening to the whole album brings down everything on it.

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I'm with Scott; I think Adam was a bit too kind to Around the Sun.

 

My ranking of the songs on this album:

1. Leaving New York

2. Around the Sun

3. The Outsiders

4. High Speed Train

5. Wanderlust

6. Electron Blue

7. The Ascent of Man

8. Final Straw

9. I Wanted to Be Wrong

10. Boy in the Well

11. Make it All Okay

12. Aftermath

13. The Worst Joke Ever

 

My album list so far:

1. Automatic for the People

2. Document

3. Up

4. Green

5. New Adventures in Hi-Fi

6. Monster

7. Lifes Rich Pageant

8. Fables of the Reconstruction

9. Murmur

10. Reveal

11. Reckoning

12. Out of Time

13. Around the Sun

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Adam Scott has been teasing his ATS re-sequencing pretty much since the first ep of this podcast so I'm a little peeved he didn't share it with us in this episode.

Over the course of this series I have become a total convert to the "re-sequencing not-so-great albums" party - loved that it has re-awoken my love for songs on Up and Reveal.

While there are R.E.M. albums I don't listen to as much or songs I'm not as fond of, ATS has the distinction of being the first album with a song I could not even get all the way through from the very first listen - Make It All Okay. The droning repetition of "didn't you now" drives me bat-shit crazy and coming after The Outsiders, which I also consider a dud, I never fail to skip forward to the next song, while also feeling sad that I have to.

My re-sequenced Around The Sun:

1. Final Straw
2. Leaving New York
3. Wanderlust
4. Boy in the Well
5. I Wanted to be Wrong
6. Around the Sun
7. Electron Blue
8. The Worst Joke Ever
9. Aftermath
10. High Speed Train
11. The Ascent of Man

I'm still trying it out. Not sold on keeping Worst Joke in there, as I find it the weakest of the longest song trio (Joke, Train and Well).

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