Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Certain Songs #1701: R.E.M. – “Time After Time (annElise)” | Medialoper

Album: Reckoning
Year: 1984

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“Time After Time (annElise)” just might be my favorite R.E.M. song.

At the very least, it’s probably my most favorite song on Reckoning, which puts me at odds with one of R.E.M.’s most-favorite fans, Stephen Malkmus, who in Pavement’s awesome paean to early R.E.M., “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence” famously screeched “‘Time After Time’ was my LEAST favorite song!”

Which, of course, given the absurdly consistent quality of Reckoning, isn’t necessarily the insult that it’s always seemed: I mean So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) is probably my least favorite song on Reckoning, and I wrote about it.

As the last song on side one (AKA “Side L”) of Reckoning, “Time After Time (annElise)” — the “(annElise)” no doubt stuck on to make sure that no one confused it with the Miles Davis-approved Cyndie Lauper smash single — take up pretty much the same space that “Perfect Circle” did on Murmur, or “Old Man Kensey” would on Fables of The Reconstruction of the Fables: the weird slow pretty one just before you flipped the record over.

Fully channeling their Velvet Underground influence for the first time, “Time After Time” is anchored by a drony Peter Buck guitar part that continually refreshed itself just prior to fading out, as well as Bill Berry playing almost a marching rhythm on his drums.

As the girl of the hour by the water towers watched
If your friends took a fall, are you obligated to follow?
Time after time after time

With Mike Mills and/or Bill Berry singing ghostly backing vocals, time after time when they broke the drone for a second for Stipe to sing “time after time after time” it killed me, especially when as the song went on, Peter Buck started upping the intensity of the drone part. It was all tension and release tension and release tension and release, time after time after time.

“Time After Time” was also one of the songs — along with “Don’t Go Back to Rockville,” “Smoking in the Boys Room” and, hee hee, “Driving Rain” — excerpted on their July 1984 acoustic appearance on I.R.S. The Cutting Edge, the monthly MTV show that was an absolute staple in our apartment, because they would have segments like that one. (And also because host Peter Zaremba — from the Fleshtones, of course — called everybody he interviewed “my close personal friend,” which became a meme that still gets referenced to this day.)

In any event, I could see where the drone and the relative lack of movement of “Time After Time” could drive folks crazy, and it could probably could have used a real bridge, but those are all the reasons I absolutely love it.

That said, “Time After Time” didn’t get played all that much in concert compared to some of the other Reckoning songs — according to Setlist.fm, over the years, only “Camera” was pulled out fewer times — though it played a part in a memorable 1987 b-side, where, accompanied only by Peter Buck, they did a medley of the first verses of “Time after Time” before segueing into an a cappella excerpt of Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” and finishing with a heartfelt version of “So. Central Rain.”

“Time After Time (annElise)”

“Time After Time” recorded acoustically in July, 1984

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