What's The Frequency Kenneth Monster | 1994
Relating With the Kids These Days
There are some pretty great interpreteations of these lyrics out there. I highly recommend Matthew Perpetua’s writeup. It’s a perrennial beauty of these songs that there are so many ways to interpret them.
This one is at least partially about Gen X’s Role in culture as we got older. Specifically to me, it’s about finding yourself out of touch with a younger generation and the frustration that goes along with it. Like Dan Rather’s attacker who was convinced there was a radio frequency that would unlock all the consiricy theories, it can feel like there’s an inside secret key to unlock what’s really going on.
The lyrics here become extremely self-aware that the band itself is nearing its end as a cultural force. Even during their peak popularity. The band was brilliant to secure the largest record deal in history. Jim Dirigotas might have faulted them for sticking around too long and being too press savvy in their mid-late career, but these guys smartly “secured the bag” at the perfect moment.
This song represents REM to me as the plutonic ideal song representing their ENTIRE career. Not just the pre-UP era that most people think was their entire career. The wierd tremelo effect that dominates the memory of “Monster” more than it actually appears is a precursor to wild experimentations to come.
Or as it should have been subtitled, “Monster: Hey guys, check out my new pedal!” - joke credit to the Scotts.
Despite getting out before they became a nostalgia act, there was a feeling of chasing popularity that comes with the territory of staying around after your peak. I would disagree that they were finished making great music. “Up” is a better album than most of their earlier work, including “Monster”. They just didn’t have the frequency anymore.
I haven’t gotten far on recording this one yet. No robot drummer since the arrangement is so basic (Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals). But I NAILED the tremelo effect first thing. Though that faux-backwards guitar solo is gonna be a challenge. Need something that ducks down the pick attack and swells the sound with each note. We’ll see how strong my compression game is here.