Thursday, February 13, 2020

Certain Songs #1751: R.E.M. – “The Apologist” | Medialoper

Album: Up
Year: 1998

. . .

File Under Apologize

Obviously, the proper place to file “The Apologist” would be under “Sorry,” but that slot is already taken by “So Central Rain,” the song from which “The Apologist” steals most of its chorus.

They call me the apologist
And now that I’m at peak
You know at first it really hurt
We joke about these things
I’ve skirted all my differences
But now I’m facing up
I wanted to apologize for
Everything I was so

Filled with spooky keyboards, and driven by frog-marching drum machines, “The Apologist” is all tension and no release as it circles around itself getting tighter and tighter, Michael Stipe repeating “I’m sorry / So sorry” into an endless and unforgiving voice. You know that his apology isn’t going to get accepted anytime soon.

At some point, Peter Buck tries to help, but his guitar gets crunched, fucked up and phased in and out, trying to break through the plethora backwards keyboards, upside-down beats and a ghostly Mike Mills, who took up the chant of “So sorry” as if that would ease the load any. It didn’t.

Thank you for being there for me
Thank you for listening, goodbye
I can forfeit selfishness
I hope for you that you apply
This happiness
This peacefulness
This peacefulness

R.E.M. didn’t do a formal tour for Up, instead they concentrated on TV shows and the like, most of which were in Europe, where their fanbase had never really gone away. Given that it was one of the strongest songs on up, they played “The Apologist” at many of these appearances, and with a drummer and absent all of the effects, you could hear it as a standard rock song.

Which for the longest time, I think I preferred the live versions I heard: it made more sense that way. But revisiting this weird, disjointed studio version has reminded me why I enjoyed Up so much in the first place. Strange as fuck, sure, but still melodic as fuck, too. Sorry.

“The Apologist”

“The Apologist” live in Germany, 1998

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