They may have disbanded (for good?) in 2011, but R.E.M. continue to pop up in cognoscenti conversation as one of the grand architects of the age of modern rock, which, unfortunately, also seems to have disbanded. Their monumental sophomore album Reckoning just hit 35, and has been on the lips of the cultural chattering classes, surely due to a just-published new book, Begin the Begin, about their early years in Athens, GA.
Things ended amicably for the exalted quartet, and in the years since, Michael Stipe has lived a seemingly unhurried professional life, jumping up on stage with Chris Martin, recording a song with his pal Courtney Love, even doing a little soundtrack work.
It’s hard not to be excited then, to hear actual new music from the enigmatic frontman / possessor of a voice that everyone knows made even Bono jealous. The first track, “Your Capricious Soul,” has just been released, and it’s a moody, ethereal bit of art pop. And if we’re being honest, if not for his utterly inimitable vocal phraseology, it might even be mistaken for Radiohead.
“I took a long break from music,” Stipe explains, “and I wanted to jump back in. I want to add my voice to this exciting shift in consciousness.”
As befits the always ideologically piqued Stipe, the release is tied to a movement, in this case the recent global rebellion protests against climate change. In fact, all the proceeds from the song over the next year will go to the very zeitgeisty new group Extinction Rebellion, which organizes non-violent protests against government inaction on climate change.
“They gave me the incentive to push the release and not wait,” he says of the organization. “Our relationship to the environment has been a lifelong concern and I now feel hopeful…optimistic, even. I believe we can bring the kind of change needed to improve our beautiful planet Earth, our standing and our place on it.”
There’s also a haunting accompanying video by noted filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson.
Welcome back, Michael.