Mistaken as an endorsement for the delicious citrusy beverage of the same name, Orange Crush serves as a reminder that R.E.M. wasn't relegated to songs about unrequited love and people that were shiny and possibly happy.
When the album Green was released in 1988, I lived in a small town with two radio stations. One played top-40 country hits, while the other played top-40 pop songs. My only reprieve was MTV's Sunday-night showcase of alternative bands 120 Minutes. I'd stay up late and learn about bands I'd never heard of: The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Kate Bush, and R.E.M.
As an awkward teenager in a mostly conservative town, I was astounded that a band could sneak a song about the horrors of Agent Orange into a catchy tune with the title of a soft drink. I had no real connection to the Vietnam war, my father refused to talk about it. Yet, this song seemed to justify my father's silence. It seems ridiculous now that I found a connection with my dad through a song that, as far I can tell, he's probably never listened to. Whether he knew it or not, this was our song.
After 31 years of music, R.E.M. announced today that they "decided to call it a day as a band." They leave behind a legacy of great music; Night Swimming, Losing My Religion, Radio Free Europe, and the incredible Fall on Me. Plus a song I wish no one had ever recorded, Shiny Happy People. It's catalog to be proud of, even with the less-than-stellar albums they've released in the past few years. Still to me, they'll always be the Orange Crush band. [iTunes, Amazon]