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A brooding deep cut from R.E.M.’s Green anchors a 25th-anniversary offshoot EP

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearingThis week, we asked: “Record Store Day is this weekend. What’s your favorite song getting re-issued this weekend, or that you’ve discovered through a previous RSD?” 

R.E.M.’s Green will reach its 25th birthday this year (feel old?), and it’s unsurprisingly being fêted with a deluxe reissue, as each of the band’s other albums were when they reached silver-anniversary age. (Presumably the 2029 anniversary of Around The Sun will be quietly ignored.) Apparently there are no era-specific bonus tracks to offer for Green, so the new set—which comes out in May—will include a live disc featuring tracks from a Greensboro, North Carolina concert from 1989, part of the band’s insanely huge Green World Tour. But one measly CD couldn’t contain an entire R.E.M. show from this era, so five tracks that didn’t make the reissue are being made available separately for Record Store Day as the limited-edition Live In Greensboro EP

That’s a roundabout way to get to “I Remember California,” a deep cut from Green that shows up on the EP: It’s a circular, brooding track that sounds particularly dark in the context of that record, which featured breakout hits like the self-mockingly titled “Pop Song 89” and “Stand.” It also marks something of a bridge between Michael Stipe’s early-days impressionism and his more straightforward lyrics: Some words evoke specific images—traffic jams, girls with tans—while others remain oblique (“a symbol wave I must confide / I guess we took us for a ride”). And while it’s an excellent song, it’s also kind of a bummer, which might explain why it’s immediately followed on Green by a hidden track (sometimes called “11”) that’s much cheerier and more hopeful. They make a nice pair.