On April 1, 2008, my favorite band during my high school years, R.E.M., will release its fourteenth studio album, titled Accelerate. Naturally, I will reflexively buy this album, but as with the past three or four R.E.M. albums, I doubt I will listen to it much. It's a cliché to say that Green (1988) represented the beginning of the end for the band, but I think that's pretty obviously true. Similarly obvious is that Reckoning (1984) and Lifes Rich Pagent (1986) (no apostrophe) were R.E.M.'s best albums, with songs like "Seven Chinese Brothers," "So. Central Rain," "Begin the Begin," "These Days," and "Fall on Me."
The only thing really of note with the new album is that it will contain a track titled "Houston." Normally, I would assume that Michael Stipe is singing about Houston Street in Manhattan, or perhaps the short-lived television show Matt Houston, but the lyrics clearly indicate that he's talking about the Bayou City here. SCORE. Still, I'm somewhat surprised. To temper Houstonians' collective self-congratulation, though, be forewarned that the lyrics really don't offer much insight into Houston. I was hoping for more specific lyrics from Stipe & Co. about Houston, like maybe having something about the Houston Rockets' championships of '94 and '95 (and maybe throwing in the phrase "Clutch City" somewhere in there) or perhaps even singing about that big pothole on Weslayan near Richmond that gave me a flat tire last year as Gwen and I were driving to that horrible Edwards 24 movie theater. Alas, no. The only references to Houston are in the refrain:
Houston is filled with promise
Laredo's a beautiful place
and Galveston seems like that song that I love
whose meaning has not been erased
It seems safe to infer that R.E.M. has never been to Laredo. (A video of the band rehearsing the song can be found here.)