Band: R.E.M.
Album: Reckoning
Best song: “So. Central Rain” is near-perfect and one of my favorite songs. “7 Chinese Bros.” is great.
Worst song: “Little America” isn’t great.”

Like a lot people my age, Jim Henson’s creations were a huge part of my youth. Having been partially raised by TV, I watched the tapes of the Muppet Show and Muppet Babies over and over. I’ll never forget that The Frugal Gourmet was on right after Sesame Street on our local public TV.

But, as mentioned, my family did not have cable, so it may have taken me a bit to get to Fraggle Rock, but my sister and I eventually did. Henson’s idea that he could save the world through a kid’s show was encapsulated in the supremely idealistic and gently moralistic show that taught kids the symbiosis of the natural and societal world; each species has a purpose and each needs to learn to understand one another.

Like all children’s shows, the main characters were mostly one-dimensional and easy-to-understand. They relied on simple ideas — Mokey, for example, was a bit of a hippy and talked like one. As was probably the goal, a lot of kids found themselves identifying with one or another of the Fraggles.

As such, my sister was Red, the jock and powerful personality of the group. My sister was an athlete all throughout childhood and then in high school. Boundless with energy, there are countless stories of my sister forcing her way into stuff and getting her way. She’s not really changed since that era, to be honest.

My parents got me a Wembley t-shirt when I was a kid, I imagine, because they thought I fit that role on some level. Wembley was a worrier, but generally fun-loving and largely indecisive. But, I loved Boober.

Boober was a depressive. Boober wasn’t worried; he was simply defeated. Even when things looked up for the eyeless, orange-haired Muppet, he just wanted to wash his socks and take the solace of cooking for his friends. He wore a scarf. Indoors. Underground.

Boober was Eeyore and, on some level, I was Boober.

An der Schwelle der Ewigkeit (On the Threshold of Eternity) by Vincent Van Gogh

I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder (also called clinical depression, a syndrome first described a year before my birth) twice in my lifetime and have received treatment for it. I’ll not go too far into my own dealings with it, as this isn’t really the place (I’ll try and keep my medical stuff somewhat private), but said disorder peppers my memories. There are times when I found solace in different people — ultimately, humans are social animals — including girlfriends and close friends. But, overwhelmingly, there’s a reason I should have called this blog “Forgetting.” That lyric means a lot to me because nostalgia’s power is double-sided with me; I try to encapture some of the happier times, but it’s not really there.

Again, there’s brain chemistry and experiential stuff here, but I know it’s there. I know, intellectually, that there were times in which I should have been very happy and there are times I should remember being happy; most certainly, there were times during my childhood that I probably was genuinely (whatever that means) happy. As a kid, I loved sports, goofing around, playing music poorly, etc. Normal kid stuff.

But, for whatever reason — parenting, lack of motivation, brain chemistry, physiology, etc. — I don’t have that from childhood.

Reckoning is not R.E.M.’s best record, but it features, probably, the band’s best song. “So. Central Rain” is one of Michael Stipe’s grand achievements, both as a lyricist and as a singer. Exploring his range as a vocalist, Stipe’s voice barely warbles as he recounts the veiled story of a misplayed relationship through its stages. A wants something. B wants something else. B and A are far apart. Discussion. More discussion. “Rivers of suggestion” and then, more distance. And, of course, a melancholy yet powerfuly “I’m sorry” as refrain.

Not surprisingly, it’s one of my favorite songs.

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  • By The Rising Tide | Albums That I Own on October 6, 2012 at 10:54 am

    […] not been shy in this space about my own struggles with mental health. These struggles started in high school, as they do with a lot of people. Growing up, I’d […]

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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