Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, May 23, 2021.
I'd be embarassed.
Try Not To Breathe
This song is beautiful, musically. The lilting melody, the wonderful background vocals, the arrangement in general is just gorgeous.
But the lyrics are so depressing that I can’t stand it. I can only listen to this with half an ear, as background music. There have been other very sad songs about death that I can listen to, but those are always about the death of a specific person. This one is just too open ended, and especially I get older, this is not a subject I want to contemplate at all for myself. Not yet, anyway. Maybe in the future, when I am contemplating my own impending death, I will come back to this song, but not now.
I recognize that Michael has done an outstanding job capturing something here, but I can only rate a song based on how it makes me feel, and this one just makes me too uncomfortable. At the moment, I can’t listen to music that makes me this uncomfortable.
Try Not to Breathe - 5/5 - Fantastic. Not much I can add to what others have said, but this is one of the albums centerpiece songs for me and highlights the autumnal feel and theme of death that runs through the album.
“Try Not To Breathe” is a 5 out of 5 for me. Such a great lyric.
Try Not To Breath
REM continues the "good, but not great" opening to AUTOMATIC. This is a nice song, but REM has very high standards for their ballads and this is not in the Half A World Away/Nightswimming category. Again, good, but not great.
I came to REM via Out of Time and still love it today. Quickly got the back catalogue on cassette from Columbia House. At some point around here I also decided to educate myself about Led Zeppelin so bought their box set, also on cassette.
Then I heard JPJ was helping out on the new REM album - very exciting. My local store said they were getting in a limited edition of the new album. I lined up and paid about $35 to get Automatic on CD (I was now transitioning away from cassettes!) in a fancy wooden box. For all that extra dosh, inside were a few b&w photos on translucent paper. Hmm. Not so exciting.
Then I put in the album and it was… ok. Kind of dull. Certainly not as multi-faceted as OOT and not as punchy as LRP or Green. Over time I simply drifted away from this album. The fancy edition was sold off in the late 90s. Eventually I repurchased it for dollar at a charity shop to give it a second chance. I still feel it’s just ok, and there’s too much music in this world to listen to ok albums.
As for Drive, I lean toward actually disliking the song. I was more familiar with the 80s version of Rock On and that was the type of music that REM gave me relief from. Why were REM quoting that kind of stuff? And while there are good moments in the song, like some of the swirling strings, the main riff on Dm is Buck by numbers. And the song as a whole is just a bit of a bore. The electric version is worse. Just a plodding riff that goes nowhere.
Yes. Hate that generic electric guitar that comes screaming in.
You are not alone. Everybody hurts sometimes.
Don't you mean sweetness?
Wait, Bill sings on this? I never knew before today. Just listened again, is that him doing the flanged "I have seen things you will never see" backing part as well as doubling the oh's in the middle eight? I always thought it was Michael, but I guess I wasn't listening hard enough and the effect obscures the voice. I don't hear Michael's nasality on that vocal now. Hmm.
Holy poop it is! That's him singing the part in this live video. Gotta be one of, if not his most prominent backing vocal on their records.
Try Not to Breathe---not even sure what to say about it but the feeling it is striving for it hits, and hits hard. 5/5.
Thank you so much for this!! Such a cool little part. I love those guys so much.
In July, my Dad (who was 94) went into the hospital for cardiac failure. He had been dealing with this for quite a while - had a significant downturn in the summer of 2020 but after a couple of really lengthy hospital stays and some serious post hospital rehab, did not get back to where he was but very close. He had a very significant setback in July and went into the hospital. He was lucid, but extremely weak and really, really sick.
As soon as the cardiologist told him that here was nothing further to do for him at this point (he had like an 18 "percent" cardiac output) and that he was "not going to get better," my Dad, essentially said, "I am 94, I have had a great life, I do not want to continue to live feeling this way," and stopped eating. Several days later we were in hospice and a week later he passed. It was a very - I do not want to say "eye opening" experience, but to see him say, "this is it," and then stick with it - it was an amazing experience for all of us in his family who were able to be with him during the last few weeks of his life. It was extremely important for him to "go out on his own terms" as he saw it.
"Try not to Breathe" is a song that when I first bought the record really did not resonate with me - it was not until I had lived a whole lot more life that it did. This song was so, so on point to my last days with my Dad. My dad (who had a great love for music - bluegrass and "old time" country), never heard this song but he lived it in his last few weeks.
I will try not to breathe
This decision is mine
I have lived a full life
And these are the eyes that I want you to remember, oh
Those are words that absolutely could have come out of his mouth. It is staggering.
PS - there is a great series of articles on Diffuser.fm from 2017 on each song on this record. I don't have the link but its pretty easy to search for. They went through the album song by song.
Yes, I am culling some of my quotes from that series.
This song is so close to jumping the hurdle into greatness, but doesn't quite make it. It is really good and does have similarities to some older REM songs. They set the bar so high in the past that this one just falls a bit short. I want to love it, but it doesn't have the same impact on me as their greatest tunes. I like it more than I remembered, and it's definitely in my top half of favorites on the album so I will go with a 4/5
That's an incredibly moving and insightful story. Thanks for sharing that. I remember listening to Automatic For the People for the first time and instantly understanding that at some time in the future, the album would help me deal with, and perhaps better understand, bereavement and the poignancy of death and all its mysteries.
You have to give great kudos to REM for making death such a prominent theme on a mainstream rock record - what an amazing and very brave band they were. We were lucky to have them.
Try Not To Breathe
A song only R.E.M. could write. Sounds like no other band.
Try not to Breathe. Man this is just a lovely song. When Ithink of REM 5's, I think of monuments - Coyahoga, Fall on Me, Driver 8. This isnt on the same epic level as those, but I just think its a fantastic song. 5/5
edit - never paid attn to the lyrics before reading yalls responses. Wow, yeah the lyrics definitely elevate this one for me
"Try Not To Breathe" is one of R.E.M.'s best songs. The subject matter, and the sensitivity and honesty with which it is treated, is profoundly emotional and loving. I don't consider AFTP a "dark" album, but it is a very sad one. It exists in a world of memory and loss and I think it affects so many people because it is music for your life. It's hard to relate to songs like "The Flowers Of Guatemala" or "Radio Free Europe", but many of the songs on AFTP deal with real life matters. If you've spent much time on this earth at all, you can relate to songs like "Try Not To Breathe", "Everybody Hurts", "Sweetness Follows", "Nightswimming", and "Find The River" at a minimum. I don't listen to music for entertainment as much as I do to find solace, to contemplate, and to gain insight into real world concerns. This is music that fulfills those objectives and does so with great beauty and power. And can we talk about what a great vocalist Michael Stipe has become by this point? His voice is keening and filled with emotion on this track - and throughout this album. It's a far cry from his earlier mumbling. He sings this song magnificantly.
Sheer brilliance. 5/5
Absolutely. I felt his last sentence was inarguably correct back in 1992 when I first listened to the album and nothing in the 29 years(!) since that day has disproven it.
For me, this song is a masterpiece, one of several on this album. This song has all of their best qualities as songwriters and arrangers of "folk rock" type songs, and adds a depth that they haven't really shown before. It's one of Michael's finest lyrics, a meditation on death and mortality that can be about your grandmother and the ravages of the HIV crisis at the same time. On an album with Everybody Hurts on it, this to me has much more depth, subtlety, and poetry.
It's dark, but there's enough melody and musical elements that run against that to provide some beauty as well. The main riff is intoxicating, and Mills' backup vocals are perfect counterpoint.
This is what you hope your favorite band does when they go to a major label. 5/5, obviously!
"Try Not To Breathe" is one of those songs that I always forget about and then get a jolt of surprise when it comes on. Nothing unusual there, but normally this happens to me with songs I don't like much and so they don't make an impression on me, but strangely I like TNTB very much and yet it still never makes a lasting impression. Don't know why. Maybe because it meanders its way through without doing anything different, nevertheless I always enjoy the melody and instrumentation especially.
Did you know that part was Bill? Or were you thanking for the live video?
I assumed the part was Bill, which is why I included it in my credits. (I never forget Bill. I just get a kick out of singing drummers, and I think he wrote or co-wrote the music of some of their best songs. I think he's pretty audible in a lot of their stuff actually.)
I knew it wasn't Michael, because it just doesn't sound like him; and it seemed in Bill's sweet spot, range-wise; a little low for Mike, (but not really out of his range, either). But I hadn't been able to find a Berry era clip to confirm it, not that I looked that hard.
It wasn't written about in any of the books at all: they all mention the "John Lennon" Mike Mills bit, but not Bill's part.
Never paid attention to the lyrics in Try Not to Breathe before, so thanks everyone for highlighting them. I much prefer something like this to the highly direct in your face lyric of Everybody Hurts - I guess I prefer it when REM hang onto some of their murkiness.
The song itself has a lot of cool bits (Leslie effect on the background vocals; minor key shift for the bridge), but doesn’t grab me as a whole. Good but not great.
After the opening dirge of "Drive", "Try Not to Breathe" is a more traditionally melodic piece that focuses more on its rhythm. In many ways, it can be considered a direct counterpart to the track immediately before it, in that the song sounds tranquil but bears bleaker, more despondent lyrics. That dichotomy works excellently here, invoking a sense of tragic wonder that furthers the themes of nostalgia and loss that'll only continue to dominate Automatic for the People. Aiding this is its layered composition: Bill Berry's backing cries of "I have seen things you will never see" does much to elevate the song, as does Mike Mills' Lennon-esque birdsong.
The fact that it comes right after "Drive" is also a brilliant decision; a dirge can only go on for so long before it begins to risk losing the listener's attention, so placing this song right after does much to say that there's far more to come while also steadily easing into the even more deceptively-upbeat "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite". The first time I listened to Automatic for the People, it was this song that signaled that whatever I just dived into was going to be very much worth it.
They finally give the dude a featuring role, and they bury his voice in effects! What do those guys have against Bill's vocals?! Maybe I'm not listening hard enough, but the only album where I hear him really clearly a lot is Reckoning.
Joking about them burying Bill on purpose. I'm sure he's fine with taking third vocal chair. I like Bill a lot too. He's probably my favorite member, and yes, the eyebrow goes a long way there.
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