I hope everyone out there had a Merry Christmas or other religious/cultural holiday. As is totally evident, I took a day off for the holiday. But now I shall continue, posting this in order to finish the Songs list first. Remember, you can view the updates here. And now we proceed.
R.E.M. is back, and this is surely the greatest proof of their glorious revival. There is a swagger evident that was missing from so much of their work from the late 90s to the present.
But swagger is nothing without quality material to boast over. And boy does “Living Well” deliver. First there are the guitars. Oh, how we missed these in so much of contemporary R.E.M. Really, the song bites right into the eardrum, pulling you out of whatever coma you’d been in. It’s a fantastic jolt and, incidentally, a great ring tone for a cell phone. And then the drums and bass pop right in to the equation, pulling together the raw guitar energy and giving a direction. This propulsion is very important, as it allows everything else to follow.
And Michael Stipe steps in line with the powerful drive, delivering a tight, powerful message of political angst and fury. The target of his rage is left ambiguous (although many have assumed the current administration), but the tone is stern. Clearly Stipe is not amused and informs his subject, yelling forth, “don’t turn your talking points on me.”
This song is a real treat from start to finish, offering some of the catchiest, most gripping music released in the past decade. It’s a real shame that this song wasn’t the first official single from the album Accelerate. In every way, this is one of the best songs of the year and takes a great place in the legendary R.E.M. canon.