Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Reckoning
“Reckoning was a chance to turn up the volume, tear up the rule book, and instead capture R.E.M.’s on-stage mojo.” – Don Dixon (producer, Reckoning)
My relationship with Reckoning began roughly 23 years ago via a dubbed cassette copy I recorded off my friend’s older brother’s vinyl LP. The flip side of the tape was Lifes Rich Pageant.I still have the cassette, the sleeve’s paper yellowed and stained, with the track titles written in the hand of a 13 year old boy. The red ink is a bit smeared and runs in places, and the cassette itself sounds a bit warped and thin. It is seasoned in the way only an album that has been played hundreds of times, in hundreds of places, can be. To say that my “getting into” R.E.M. at the beginning of my teenage years was revelatory would be an understatement. This was, after all, the late eighties in suburban Atlanta. Prior to this my musical diet primarily consisted of my parents record collection, whatever was on the radio, some Guns ‘n Roses (Appetite), Beastie Boys (Licensed To Ill), Run DMC (King of Rock) and select bargain bin finds like Zeppelin, and other ‘classic rock’ staples. Looking back, IRS Records-era R.E.M. was an absolute gateway band. It wasn’t long before my tastes expanded and I ditched the music of my parent’s generation (well, for a few years anyway) quickly getting my hands on everything I could find by the Pixies, Smiths, Devo, the Cure, and Violent Femmes. The majority of this purloined by said friend’s older brother’s collection and dubbed to cassette.
Lately I’ve been listening to, and thinking about, early R.E.M. quite a bit; partly in response to this latest batch of reissues. Besides the obvious classic rock touchtsones (Beatles, Stones, etc) there are not many albums/artists that I still consistently listen to that I discovered at age 13. For example, those Dead Milkmen tapes I bought at Turtles Records & Tapes in Dunwoody Village, as nostalgia inducing as they may be, rarely get broken out. Same goes for The Hoodoo Gurus and that first Lenny Kravitz record. But albums like Reckoning are different. Albums like Reckoning — well, they are truly works of art. And like any art form you develop a connection with, whether a painting or film, it can be taken in again and again. And like all good art, you take something different away from it each time, in every different circumstance you find yourself listening. The tell-tale sign of a classic if there ever was one.
And what to say about the actual contents of Reckoning? Like Murmur before it, it’s the sound of a young R.E.M. all covered in southern humidity, kudzu and innocence — mumbled vocals, indiscernible lyrics, and ringing Rickenbacker’s — in essence, a perfect R.E.M. album.
ABOUT AQUARIUM DRUNKARD
Based in Los Angeles, Justin Gage is the founder of the long-running, eclectic music blog Aquarium Drunkard. In addition to the blog you can catch his weekly radio show, Fridays, on SIRIUS XMU satellite radio -- noon-2pm EST.
Gage is also the founder of Autumn Tone Records and works as a music consultant and supervisor.