Watch This Now: R.E.M. feat. Patti Smith – “Blue”

“I don’t mark my time with dates, holidays, faded wisdom, locked karma holders…”

I thought it was all over. Last year, I lost my all-time favourite band, R.E.M. After 31 years and over a dozen albums, the Athens indie-rock pioneers decided to depart. We got a greatest hits package and three more songs, and that was it. Just over a year on from that announcement, however, a bizarre footnote has arisen. It’s for the band’s final ever video, for the last song on their last ever album. I don’t think it can get anymore definitive than that, now, do you?

Actor and occasional eccentric James Franco is in the director’s chair for this one, bringing the song’s distorted poetry and swaying rhythm to life in an unsettling but intensely fascinating style. Neither Franco nor any members of R.E.M. appear in the video. Rather, we take a slew of handheld footage taken from Hollywood streets and hotspots, blurring in and out of grainy old footage from unknown times and places. Oh, and there’s a Lindsay Lohan photoshoot in there somewhere, too. It almost feels like a descent into madness, particularly when paired with the lyrics. Is any of it real? What has this city done to you/me/them/it/us? Is this all as beautiful as it seems? These questions are left hanging as the song fades away. They’ll probably never be answered.

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