Saturday, November 5, 2011

R.E.M.: going out on top

It's never easy to say goodbye. It's nice, though -- in part because it's so rare -- when a band goes out on top of its game. R.E.M.'s 2011 release Collapse Into Now was among the finest albums of their 30-year career, and now they are closing things out with a trio of new recordings on their forthcoming career retrospective Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011.

Not content to go quietly, though, they've released a pair of videos for their final single "We All Go Back To Where We Belong" that amount to performance art as only R.E.M. could imagine it. The one below features 3:39 of a single camera shot trained on Kirsten Dunst as she listens to the song. Her momentary flashes of self-consciousness only make the whole experience more engaging; the steady close-up allows you to literally track the subtle changes of emotion as she listens, is affected by, and reacts to the music. It's one of the simplest music videos I've ever seen, and also one of the most profound and spectacular. Here is the entire purpose of music itself -- to elicit an emotional response in the listener -- distilled into its purest form.

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