"Wolves, Lower" by R.E.M. (Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe)
Chronic Town, IRS Records, 1982.

Suspicion yourself, suspicion yourself, don't get caught.
Suspicion yourself, suspicion yourself, let us out.
Wilder lower wolves.
Here's a house to put wolves out the door.

In a corner garden, wilder lower wolves.
House in order.(4x)
Down there they're rounding a posse to ride.


Typical of the early works of R.E.M., "Wolves, Lower" is full of complicated archipeggios and obscure, imagistic lyrics. The actual subject matter of the song is deliberatly buried under a series of statements--certainly it seems that someone is being hunted by a posse, but why? Who? When? Where? We aren't told, but instead try to create our own meaning.

For me, I always pictured a Jewish family trying to hide from Nazis. This is likely influenced by what I had read as the supposed meaning of another R.E.M. song, "Harborcoat" which is supposedly about Anne Frank. (Also, the concept of setting dogs after someone, and the statement of putting "House in order.") This could be true, but the fact is that the lyrics are left open enough that any similar situation can be applied to the song.

Moreover, the music mirrors the paranoid, driving mood of the lyrics. Multiple guitars fingerpick archipeggios at a 32nd note rate, the bass drum beating like an adrenaline-fuled heart, and bass slinking underneath.

Odd facts:

First, that the title is "Wolves, Lower" because Michael Stipe had wanted to have a song title with a comma in it like "Paint It, Black."

Second, that Stipe was so self-conscious about recording the vocals that he took Mitch Easter's four track and sat out in Easter's backyard in order to record without anyone looking. Some say that if you listen closely, you can hear crickets at the end of the song. I haven't heard that, however.

Third, that this was the first video ever for the band. It is never shown in full; they hate it. I've never actually seen more than a five second clip; it just looks like the band, intercut with some slow images of Stipe's swinging around the microphone. Obscure and unoriginal, and not typical of the band. Which is probably why it isn't shown.

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