lisa ann cassidy

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'Strange' - Document

This cover of Wire’s ‘Strange’ is an album track on Document, and for me, probably the band’s most successful cover. There’s an energy and exuberance in it, and the massive confidence of the song contrasted with switching the lyrics to “Michael’s nervous and the lights are bright” before the bouncy backing vocals come in makes it into a different thing than the moody, steady Wire original.

This is my last post, and though I chose not to spend the week documenting my own relationship with the band, ‘Strange’ is a good prompt to edge into it briefly. As well as a couple of hundred songs that all act like little repositories of memory threatening to spill over, R.E.M. were my introduction to a whole host of really awesome bands and beyond, through covers and interview answers and mentions in the lyrics.

I think everyone who lets music into their head enough when they’re young gets this from a band, and the timing’s critical - I’d have found Wire and Patti Smith through something else, I’d have realised on my own that Richard Thompson was cool and my friend’s dad was actually onto something with the folk stuff, but this was how it ended up happening. Even when Nirvana rivaled them for influence over my early teens, Michael Stipe made friends with him and the death and the zeitgeist show up on Monster, Monster shows up in Douglas Coupland, and things tumble out until I realise how much the band set out the start of my pop cultural landscape.

So. Thanks so much for the support (or patience) this week, I’ve really enjoyed this and hope the rapid pace wasn’t too much. Most of all, thanks to Hendrik for the opportunity and encouragement - I’ve enjoyed the blog from the start and get excited each week as it begins again, and it’s a privilege to have had a turn.

- Lisa Ann Cassidy / handsome young stranger

Introduction: the insurgency began and you missed it

R.E.M. have released fifteen studio albums since Murmur in 1983, each one distinct in character. The only change in the band’s line-up was Bill Berry’s departure in 1997 (after New Adventures in Hi-Fi), though within the same year they also left their original manager, Jefferson Holt, and ended a six-album run with Scott Litt as producer.

The other major junction in their career is in 1988, when they left I.R.S. Records for Warner Bros. Though an independent label, I.R.S. had major label distribution, so the switch was not a massive ideological sea change, but a move from one label to another, bigger one perhaps better equipped to promote them. Our Band Could Be Your Life mentions R.E.M.’s exclusion specifically in explaining the book’s criteria - while they were weaned on punk and post-punk and part of college/alternative rock, the band was only independent for a brief blip around their first single.

Fifteen studio albums is more than a week’s worth and my time is currently pretty finite, so I made a decision. One of the things I love most about R.E.M. is that they have a back catalogue of strange songs and obsessions hiding in plain sight on studio albums, not buried on bootlegs or fan club releases or in oblique interview explanations. I’d like to highlight these within the first five albums and EP, and to end up with a collection of songs that sounds markedly different to how R.E.M. might seem to anyone who immediately glazed over when they saw which band was up this week. 


In real life, my name’s Lisa, I was born a week after Chronic Town was released, and I’m a final-year architecture student in Dublin, Ireland. My R.E.M. origin story is that my dad brought Green home from a business trip to Georgia in the 80s, and they became my favourite band for a long time. I made an R.E.M. zine that nobody’ll ever see again if I can help it, and had a legit business named after one of their albums for a while.

I like thinking and writing about music at handsome young stranger, though it’s abnormally quiet there for a few more weeks as I’m wrestling with my design thesis. I’ve been enjoying reading OWOB every week, so this is both daunting and exciting.