Friday, February 27, 2009

Talkin' Shop Part 562- Murmur, Mumble, Rumble!

It's quite bizarre. We're this far into the digital age and we are only now beginning to address the numerous failures the compact disc initially offered us. People were considered luddites for clinging to vinyl, their claims of warmth and presence waved off as obnoxious dementia. But now the proof is finally in the pudding. The recent re-issue of R.E.M.'s "Murmur" on cd is the closest thing to the vinyl experience. This is most definately the most superior version on cd yet. The previous import only "IRS Years" issue is incredibly sterile by comparison. Luckily, I'm nerdy enough to have all of these versions at my disposal. Why, I have no goddamn clue, but let's say I may be of help during the whole "Is it right to re-mix old albums" debate.

This isn't like coloring black & white movies, this is more like film restoration, almost. The new re-issue has restored the confidence and energy. In addition, the separation is better and we finally have Michael Stipe brave enough to stand in front. Guitars come out to play, the bass is more apparent. and hell, xylophones and cellos make themselves known.

But, back to the comparison, let's get one thing established, the vinyl issue is a loud, impressive, experience. The bass is unbeatable. It shot forth louder, richer, and still definative to the new re-issue. It's just too damn true, vinyl can handle more low end. But the funny thing is, my vinyl version is mastered way faster. I kinda like that. It makes punky Gang of Four like numbers such as "9-9" and "Moral Kiosk" even punkier. But it is incorrect and therefore a side issue. Can you embrace this new mix over the old cd version? Hell yes. Over the vinyl? Well, that's a whole other article. The addition of a period live show to disk two was quite welcome. This is Peter Buck before the effects pedals that washed "Fables" and the distortion that rained on "Pageant", "Document", & "Green". Simple, clean, & pure. As for the bonus tracks on "The IRS Years" -those are gone. The cassette bonus track/b-side "There She Goes Again" relegated back to the odds & ends "Dead Letter Office" compilation, and the three live tracks (from the Don't Go Back To Rockville 12") now back into the void. Mojo Magazine had presented Peter Buck with the idea that there may be a danger in allowing only one mix to exist citing the Stooges "Raw Power" David Bowie original mix vs. Iggy's current and only available re-mix. The Bowie mix underserved the Stooges and the previous cd issue of R.E.M.'s Murmur was a mistake waiting to be addressed.

One missed opportunity - instead of a cheesy radio promo for a hidden track, they should have offered up the Stephen Hague version of "Catapult". Tucked away to not be offensive, but available for context. Oh well. Maybe they'll post it on their website.

p.s. the vinyl still sounds best.

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