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New adventures in Hi-Ed: my time with R.E.M.

November 8, 2019

I recall my Bowdoin experience through excessive cultural consumption. It sounds like Nick Hornby “High Fidelity”—like mumbo jumbo, but it’s a great cataloging method.

Fall 2016: I over-played Frank Ocean’s “Blonde.” Fall 2017: I discovered Pavement, and logically started to think I grew up in the 90s. Summer 2018: I was shaken by the music of Fiona Apple and M.I.A.. Fall 2018: I talked solely about Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born.” Summer 2019: I listened to the podcast “Hollywood Handbook” for multiple hours every day.

Some cultural curiosities have faded faster than others, but they are all phenomena onto which I latch in order to describe my life and myself. Such a tagging system is not unique nor of any true interest to anyone except me. I came across such art at arbitrary times and through meaningless motives. Maybe I’ll look back at my time at Bowdoin and think, “Did I really talk that much about ‘A Star is Born?’” There is one collegiate obsession, however, that I think carries more weight. It is something that has evolved with me, starting all the way back in my junior year of high school.

In February 2014, comedian Scott Aukerman (host of “Comedy Bang! Bang!”) and actor Adam Scott (star of “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” among other films) released the podcast “U Talkin’ U2 to Me?” The hosts will tell you that it is “the encyclopedic compendium of all things U2.” It is about all things U2 and about no things U2. I started listening in early 2015. Reasoning? I was a comedy nerd, wanted to hear a couple of my favorite comedians go on comedic tangents (they talk a lot about the Huey Lewis and the News album “Sports” in their debut episode), enjoyed the band and had an inordinate amount of free time.

All of this is still true. The podcast meant so much to me because it was completely pointless. I’ve listened to much more of the podcast about the band than the actual band’s music. Unfortunately, as I entered college, episode releases were more sporadic.

In February 2018, however, Scott and Scott started a spin-off podcast with an even more ridiculous name: “R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME?”. When I heard the news in my Mayflower apartment, I was way too excited for such a situation. One pointless trait of mine survived from high school to college: I love to hear these guys talk about music and mundanities.

Yet R.E.M. was a little different for me than U2. Over 2018, I began a light dip and subsequent plunge into the band’s music. I fell in love with the podcast and then with the band. How much do I love this showand band? I own an “R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME?” t-shirt and am slightly embarrassed to wear it in public. My fondest memory of a Bowdoin R.E.M. experience? Falling asleep listening to the podcast in Hatch Science Library (Finals, May 2018, broad daylight).

One question that Scott and Scott always jokingly ask their guest (even when said guest is a member of the band R.E.M.) is “Where did you first hear of R.E.M.?” Luckily, 92.5 FM – The River, Boston’s Independent Radio, always played in my house in Manchester, N.H.. I knew R.E.M. before I knew R.E.M.. Now, years later, I rediscovered R.E.M.’s songs while focusing on the beauty in Stipe’s lyrics or Mills’ bass. And this was somehow all shaped by a comedy podcast with hosts that have an extremely infectious passion for R.E.M. How are they so infectious? They go deep on their excessive cultural consumption.

Last week, R.E.M. released a 25th anniversary edition of their grungy 1994 album “Monster.” I’m always excited to hear a remastered album, but something even more exciting came out this week. On Wednesday, a new episode of “R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me?” dropped. But Scott and Scott don’t need to release new episodes all the time; I don’t need any more excess. Instead, a few times a year, I can rejoice and reflect on the journey I’ve taken with them. To Scott, Scott and R.E.M.: Thank you. You are the everything.

Tom Regan is a member of the Class of 2020.


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