Friday, February 7, 2020

Certain Songs #1746: R.E.M. – “Binky The Doormat” | Medialoper

Album: New Adventures in Hi-Fi
Year: 1996

. . .

File Under Away

I’ve never seen the Bobcat Goldthwait film Shakes The Clown, so when I tell you that the title “Binky The Doormat” was taken from that film, I’m repeating information I gleaned from several sources, including a couple that weren’t on the internet.

But because I just learned / realized this fact out of all of the R.E.M. songs I’m writing about for this silly project, “Binky The Doormat” has the second silliest title — nothing will ever be worse than “Mine Smell Like Honey” — and it was enough for me to ignore this song for quite a while.

But not forever, as “Binky The Doormat” probably has the coolest guitar riff on New Adventures in Hi-Fi, as well as probably my favorite vocal arrangement.

Let’s start with the riff, which is a weird and carnivalesque, underscored by a Farfisa organ played by Scott McCaughey and a really cool off-beat drum pattern from Bill Berry. In fact, let’s give credit where credit is due here: while I still don’t think Berry’s drum parts were all that great — in comparison!, in comparision! — on the three previous albums, the need to get the songs over live on New Adventures in Hi-Fi seemed to rejuvenate him. Ironically.

That said, where “Binky The Doormat” really came alive on was on the choruses, where Mike Mills’ repeatedly shouting “go away!” became the main hook. To the point where I wasn’t even paying all much attention to what Stipe was singing because it was more fun to shout along with Mills.

Have you lost your place?
(Go away, go away)
I wore my doormat face
(Go away, go away)
(Go away, go, go, go)
I hung my this or that (Go away, go away)
(Go away, go away)
I laid my welcome mat
(Go away, go away)

And while R.E.M. was never going to be as comfortable with filling arenas as their friends in U2 — I mean, it’s right there in their names: “You, too” vs. the utterly personal dream state — “Binky The Doormat” was definitely one of their most successful attempts at U2-style arena rock. And one of their most subversive, given that the lyrics are all about a clown confronting their kinks.

But you didn’t even need to know that to enjoy how Stipe’s strangulated “wwooowwww!” leads right into an instrumental bridge featuring Buck coaxing some extremely kinky noises from his Rickenbacker, which is both fun and kinda thrilling.

But not as thrilling as the last chorus, which gets extended and extended and extended as Mills keeps shouting “go away!” until Stipe — finally! — joins him, both of them singing “go away!” together until the song eventually ends. The first time you hear it, it’s totally unexpected, but after that, it’s why you put the song in the first place.

“Binky The Doormat”

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