1. Drive
  2. Try Not to Breathe
  3. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
  4. Everybody Hurts
  5. New Orleans Instrumental No. 1
  6. Sweetness Follows
  7. Monty Got a Raw Deal
  8. Ignoreland
  9. Star Me Kitten
  10. Man on the Moon
  11. Nightswimming
  12. Find the River

I lived through “Ignoreland,” and when I first listened to that catchy song’s lyrics I broke down crying—I was overwhelmed that someone had managed to put into words that awful series of years in American politics and outlook, and to have caught the mood so concisely that I remembered every part of it as if it were still happening. Don’t let anybody tell you the Reagan years were great, kids, they were a nightmare for those of us who weren’t in the straight-white-upper-middle-class-Republican bracket. There’s something just awful about knowing every day that your government doesn’t want you as a citizen and is actively pursuing legal action to strip you of your human rights at the same time it’s escalating an already insanely overblown arms race. Those years were hell and I never want to go through them again. The election campaigns got worse and worse and that’s what Stipe captures most in this song…the soul-rapingly awful sequence of lies, lies, and more lies, and the flinging of mud worse, seemingly, than any that had existed in the world beforehand.

It’s saying something that I react so strongly to that one track’s existence on this album and completely forget that the same CD contains “Man on the Moon,” which under any circumstance is worthy of nearly as much commentary. Still, it’s hard to think of anything but “Ignoreland” if you’re gone through it yourself and see the danger of that reoccuring (it’s September 2004 as I write this).

An update, in 2009: for years I had only a handful of tracks from this album ripped to my digital music library, and even then I rarely listened to any of them—“Ignoreland” is obviously still a sensitive one, “Man on the Moon” is too maudlin and quasi-nostalgic for idle listening, and I’d heard “Drive” waaaaay too many times in the 1990s and needed to give it a decade of rest before returning to it—and because of this I pretty much let the rest of the album’s tracks slip out of my memory (none of the latter had ever really found traction there anyway). But by some chance I happened to pull out the CD and gave “Star Me Kitten” a spin, because I couldn’t remember it at all…and upon really listening to it this time I immediately added it to the digital library. What a bleak little scenario it presents, the nearly lifeless effort to recapture the spark of love that’s just died out, and how superbly evoked the hollowness is by Stipe’s halting voice.