I was in high school when R.E.M. was being born, and I was…

I was in high school when R.E.M. was being born, and I was against them on principle. They were too popular with girls who wouldn’t give me the time of day to be trustworthy. But the cover of Murmur said almost everything about the south that mattered to me. Those shapes lost to kudzu so thick that even in winter it masked everything; scrappy, shabby woods, filled with decaying junk, abandoned barns; mystery at once cheap and profound.

Understanding their southernness was what brought me around to R.E.M., and now every time someone holds up “Sweet Melissa” or “Free Bird” (though I love them both) as the anthem of the south I want to say no, “Catapult”; and anytime someone holds up a skillet or a leg of fried chicken as the icon of that place I still think of as home I want to show them the cover of Murmur and say, no, this.

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