Thursday, July 17, 2008

DJ at the End of the World

Death is pretty final
I'm collecting vinyl
I'm gonna dj at the end of the world

These are lyrics from my favorite song on the new REM cd, Accelerate. This cd puts REM in that large category of artists and groups who catch fresh magic early in their career, get lost somehow in their own sense of importance in the middle, and recover something of their original genius later in their career. A regular and satisfying mix for me these days is to put Accelerate alongside And I Feel Fine, a remastering of some of the best of their early songs. They are of a piece, and to me the best piece.

The musical appeal of REM necessarily includes Michael Stipe, their lead singer, who sets the interpretative table for the listener. Stipe is no fan of Christianity. But he's also unwilling to simply give up on questions of meaning. While that's him "in the corner, losing his religion," that doesn't keep Stipe from singing about sin, salvation, and the end of the world. I'm the kind of Christian who feels most comfortable when paradox and irony are at the leading edge of the rhetoric. Stipe keeps me closer to good, in that vein, than most contemporary Christian recording artists.

I've spent some time thinking about the playlist for the end of the world. There would have to be some Dylan, and not the obvious choices like "Serve Somebody" or "Knockin on Heaven's Door," but some grinding apocalypse like "Cold Irons Bound" or a "sunny" jermiad like "Summer Days." There would definitely need to be some U2, like maybe the way they move from lament to praise in the Elevation tour dvd in the songs "Bad" and "Where the Streets Have No Name." We would need some Aretha and Marvin Gaye. I am hoping for a heaven after all. And I would not be disappointed at all to hear somewhere in there...

Death is pretty final
I'm collecting vinyl...


SteveA said...

Greetings! I have had many hours of enjoyment from two of their CD's from the late eighties, Life's Rich Pageant and Green. The older I get the more difficult it is to find time to explore music. I fight a tendency to stay with the old rather than listening to new.

And thanks for the series on Missional and Emergent. Reading A New Kind of Christian startled me out of a Newtonian dogmatic slumber. Something I'd yearned for but had no idea where to find and how it could be done.

Mark Love said...

Thanks, Steve. I think we're all a bit groggy still.