Our air conditioner is broken again, and as it was 86 degrees inside our home last night, the wife and I decided to take a trip to some fine air conditioned air in the local Barnes and Nobles. As most of our CDs are now locked inside cardboard boxes we were limited in our music choices for the drive.
We wound up choosing REMs major label debut, Green. I say we, but it should be noted that in fact the decision was really nothing but my wife putting it in the CD player. I make that distinction as I probably would not have chosen that particular album. It turned out to be a good choice, as it is an excellent album. A fact I tend to forget.
I say all this to point out the sheer simplicity of understanding why “World Leader Pretend” floated back into my brain this early morning.
It is what I would call an underrated classic. “Pop Song” and “Stand” tend to get the glory from this album, or even the beautiful “You Are Everything” but “WLP” should get high praise as well.
Musically it is a little mid-tempo number with lilting guitars and a bit of a cadence on the drums. It sounds a little military – well military with background vocals by Mike Mills. The sound fits the lyrics which use a great deal of military language to discuss deeper, personal ideas.
It juxtaposes the concept of governments raising walls and preparing its defenses with the singers own emotional walls and defenses, proclaiming at last that he raised these walls and he will have to be “the one to knock it down.”
That’s a pretty universal sentiment, and one that has struck large chords with me at various times in my own life, when I raised my own defenses.
It is also, I believe, the only time REM have printed a songs lyrics in their liner notes.