I write about songs.

Archive for the ‘Mitch Easter’ Category

Let’s Active, “Waters Part”

I visited Washington, D.C., with my parents when I was a kid, and on our last day we drove a half-hour south to Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of George Washington. To no avail—it was too late in the day to take a tour. We walked around the grounds a little bit. I remember a carriage house, a gravel path. Later I read in one of the true-life haunted-house books I took out of our town library that spirits haunted the property—something about disembodied pig squeals heard at dusk sticks in my mind–and eventually the spookiness became part of my memory of our visit: an old house, deserted, surrounded by an eerie silence as twilight fell.

Mount Vernon is the farthest south I’ve ever been. (I’ve been to Southern Florida, but that seems like it’s own place.) I’ve had to leave an entire region of the country up to my imagination. For a while my idea of the South was fed by the music coming out of Georgia in the early ’80s. I liked R.E.M., as everyone in those days did; the group seemed to carry an element of that ghost-pig-in-the-twilight hauntedness. But Let’s Active, led by R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter, was the band I really loved. No paranormal porkers there, but a bright, pastoral atmosphere. This song, from their great album Cypress, has a kind of meandering, sometimes jerky, melody, like a walk over wide-open but very complicated terrain. I feel as though I can hear in the music what the South might look like, its lush twistiness. (A few other songs on the album have agrarian titles: “Gravel Truck,” “Crows on a Phone Line.”)

Over the years, this album was released first on album and then on CD, then went out of print, was released again, went out of print again. It is not for sale on iTunes. Is someone going to reissue it a third time, in any form? It seems unlikely. So will it just live in the minds and music collections of the people who first heard in back in the ’80s? For some reason it hasn’t received one of those revivals that hits certain cult bands every so often, the way the Feelies were celebrated with fancy reissues a year or two ago. After Let’s Active broke up in 1990, Mitch Easter made very little music of his own. Will new generations be able to find the music of Let’s Active? Or will it just vanish, someday for good?

Written by peterterzian

July 12, 2010 at 6:45 pm


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