Editor's note: On the new comedy podcast "R U Talkin' R.E.M. RE: ME?", hosts Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott dive deep into the legendary Athens band's discography. Local superfan Tim Kelly is reviewing the podcast for Flagpole.
Early in the Fables of the Reconstruction episode of "R U Talkin’ R.E.M.," Scott mentions that he had been listening to the album the week before recording and how his wife, Kulap, told him that the R.E.M. show was “going to be so much harder for [her] than U2." While it pained me to hear him relay that, it got me to thinking about passion (talk about the), fandom and family.
Scott spoke honestly about how R.E.M. resonated with him, in part, because it was music that his dad also enjoyed, something the two of them could share. My own mother, Nan, who passed away in 2008, was a music fan, but not an obsessive. She found her collection of tunes and stuck with 'em. R.E.M. was the first band that I found, brought to her and we ultimately both enjoyed. I vividly remember my teenage self excitedly playing her songs I just discovered, like "Begin the Begin" or "Second Guessing," as we drove to school or the movies. And then, much later, excitedly showing her the "Great Beyond" and "Bad Day" videos and seeing her smile broadly while in the midst of a battle with kidney cancer (“I like them, they seem like such nice men”).
We live in a time when technology allows us to share opinions too much, with too many strangers and not enough with those closest to us. It’s always a risk to open yourself up and tell anyone, let alone those closest to you, how much something—a movie, a band, a poem—means to you. They may not always like that same thing, and they shouldn’t! Adam’s reticence and fear that Scott will make fun of the songs and R.E.M. albums that he cherishes rings very true for me. I bristle anytime anyone dare speak an ill word about R.E.M. (or Lord of the Rings, or the Baltimore Orioles, or creme de menthe ice-cream pie), but that’s part of sharing your life with someone, be it a partner, a sibling or a best friend. That’s what makes sharing so rewarding: Sometimes we need to get out of our own heads. You need a partner like Kulap or a friend like Scott to check you when you get too full of yourself and your interests (so, maybe Fables is just a great album and not THE BEST ALBUM THAT HAS EVER ALBUMED).
Sharing your love of art is special, and it's magical when your love of art aligns, but opening yourself up and being willing to appreciate your partner’s love of something that you may not enjoy is just as important. It’s a skill I need to work on—a LOT. I am stubborn in many ways, but probably the most in my refusal to embrace the interests of my loved ones—interests that, to this point, I do not share. I try, but there is some bitter late-stage Gen-Xer in me that won’t let me say, “Yes, I totally understand why you liked Backstreet Boys so much!”
This is all made far more complex now that we have two young sons. My wife and I have committed to surrounding both of them with music, movies, books—art. But it's all our art, our passions. At some point, they will (hopefully) find their own thing, and when that day comes I need to remember these episodes, this column and openly embrace the art they bring to me to love, and accept that which I normally would not.
So, take some time today to watch your friend's favorite movie, ask your daughter to make you a playlist, or ask your partner what their favorite band was when they were a kid. Even if you don’t love what you hear or watch, you’ll never regret it.
A new feature this week—even after years of "U Talkin’ U2" and now four "R.E.M." episodes, the Scotts continue to surprise me—my favorite, honest snippets from the Reckoning and Fables episodes:
Tim's Stone Cold Classics: