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R.E.M. vs. McCarthy
From the Isthmus archives, Oct. 30, 1987

Contributing writer Bill Forman previews R.E.M.'s concert at the Dane County Coliseum (tickets: $14.50!) with a Section 2 cover feature, "R.E.M. at the Crossroads," based on a lengthy interview with guitarist Peter Buck and centering on the band at one of the critical tipping points in its career - one that finds the Athens, Ga., foursome teetering between the underground and the mainstream. "Document," Forman writes, "the second album of R.E.M.'s New Clarity phase, still has just enough rough edges to prevent total assimilation into the monolithic commodity we call pop music." One of the album's more powerful songs holds special interest for R.E.M.'s Wisconsin fans, Forman notes, because it references one of the darker episodes in the state's history: "On 'Exhuming McCarthy,' we resurrect the junior senator from Wisconsin and his hearings, this time to insure loyalty to Bank of America. 'That's Joseph Welch, the lawyer in the Army hearings,' says Buck of the found vocal in the song's break. 'It's one of the most amazingly moving things I ever saw. It was after all these months of McCarthy pushing the country around. McCarthy starts pulling out all these sheaves of paper about Welch's assistant, who's just some college kid. And Joseph Welch goes, "Sir, have you no sense of decency?" It's the first time anyone dared to talk back to McCarthy. And what a pig he was, boy....'"

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