Should we talk about the weather?

In attesa del ritorno in Italia dei/degli R.E.M., con i concerti di stasera a Bologna e di domani a Torino, segnalo una chicca per chi non sa come ingannare le ultime ore di attesa e per chi stavolta resterà a casa.

Matthew Perpetua, autore del fantastico blog Pop Songs (07-08), proprio pochi giorni fa ha temporaneamente "completato" la sua missione dichiarata, ovvero quella di pubblicare un post per ogni canzone del repertorio R.E.M. aggiornato al 2007.
Temporaneamente, in quanto Perpetua ha saggiamente evitato di scrivere "a caldo" sulle 11 tracce di Accelerate, in modo da aver tempo di "viverle" in pieno e scriverne poi in modo più ragionato e distaccato, come già aveva fatto con tutte le altre.

Dopo i titoli di coda è però arrivato un cadeau ai lettori e commentatori del blog: la serie di post "Ask Michael Stipe", in cui il leader dei R.E.M. in persona si è offerto di rispondere (negli intervalli dell’attuale tour) a una lunga serie di domande dei succitati lettori (preventivamente raccolte dal gestore del blog), vertenti sul significato di singole canzoni o versi.

Le risposte a domande specifiche su singole canzoni hanno ovviamente un interesse soprattutto per i fans tuttologi e scatenati. Riporto questa, che riguarda un pezzo che amo molto

Q: Walk Unafraid is one of my favourites and I love hearing it love. It’s been interpreted as the climax of the Michael Stipe narrative. How personal is that song?

A: personal in that its quite literal inspiration was something Patti Smith told me, some great advise she gave me as a lyricist and artist when I was really in hardcore writer’s block…but I think it goes beyond me, and that’s not my self mythologizing but trying to push it further out into the world of collective experience

In generale Stipe risponde in modo spiritoso, e a volte perplesso: con una carriera così longeva e prolifica non c’è da meravigliarsi che in molti casi abbia meno da dire sulle proprie canzoni rispetto a chi le ha vissute da ascoltatore di lungo corso.

Ecco di seguito alcune risposte a quesiti di ordine più generale, che ben fotografano l’onestà intellettuale del personaggio. Pop Songs, appunto.

Q: You use rhyming quite often and personally I find that REM lyrics can be absorbed without music perfectly in a different way of course. So the term ‘poetry’ often comes into my mind when reading them and a few artists like for example Leonard Cohen produced an extreme volume of work of both poems and songs. Also, I know you got involved writing haikus before, so I wonder have u ever looked at your songs as a piece of poetry and were u influenced by poetry writing at all at any stage of your career or you’d rather prefer to draw a sharp line between the two and think of them as two different entities?

A: I can barely stand poetry truthfully, to read it; I do like to hear it but often the reader gets too dramatic and blows it. Respectfully I’m happy that poetry and poets exist, it’s just not really my cup of tea, like reggae and bluegrass are not my cup of tea, with few exceptions. Patti Smith of course is brilliant at taking a reading into another place, where it all works and even later when you look at the elements you’re puzzled as to how it could be so moving, so real, so silly or funny, so tearful…but she’s just that good when she’s on, and I’m still learning from her. I don’t think of my stuff as poetry and never did really

 – – –

Q: A general question: you’ve intimated in interviews that the first two R.E.M. albums essentially had no real lyrics (something which you just alluded to in mention of the chorus to”Orange Crush”). Did the lyrics to the songs on those two albums eventually stick or do they continue to evolve for you over time with repeated performances?

A: those songs were mostly written to be sung live. The pa systems were so crap that no one could ever really hear the singer anyway, including the singer. We just never intended to make records, and then suddenly we were making records and the songs were in my head like that, so we just blurred the vocal and turned it way down. The songs that do have words don’t really make any or much sense, it was about creating a feeling and emotion in the room in the moment. As it turns out the records turned out pretty great too, just inscrutable. I had to learn pretty fast how to write a good or great lyric after that. Please don’t analyze them, there’s nothing but feeling there. Sing along and make it up, that’s what I still do.

– – –

Q: Do you aim for timelessness when writing songs, or is that only unexpectedly achieved?

A: I used to think “timelessness” was superimportant.  Now I don’t.

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