42/365: Under the covers part 2: Just R.E.M.

There are three songs on Dead Letter Office that blow my mind. Those would be the Velvet Underground covers, obviously.

Like a majority of R.E.M.’s cover versions in the ’80s, their arrangements for Velvet Underground tunes seemed intent on reverse-engineering them in order to uncover their connections to past generations kind of like a form of musical genealogy. This is especially true of their take on “There She Goes Again” from the Velvets’ debut album — stripped of Lou Reed’s tough guy persona, the song is neat and streamlined into pure bubblegum. It’s such a shame more people haven’t heard it.

“Pale Blue Eyes” and “Femme Fatale”are a slightly different matter. For both songs, the arrangements are reasonably close to the Velvet Underground versions, but Michael Stipe’s approach to the vocals is rather sentimental and straight-forward compared to the original performances by Reed and Nico, respectively. I love love love both of these songs. And I admit, I prefer the covers to the originals; R.E.M will always be in my top three bands, so it should be surprising that I like those best.

In this post and the post before last, I hope I’ve given you reasons to download Dead Letter Office. It’s so damn good.

Here are the songs I’ve mentioned.

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