Does a new R.E.M. album count as an event in queer music? I think so, and Fred Maus helps me understand why. As he points out, the obscurity and elision in Stipe’s lyrics make them at once confessional and oblique, “intimate and distant.” This I think is the case both before and after Stipe’s public coming out.
The queerest thing about Collapse into Now isn’t song titles like Mine Smell Like Honey, or lines like “You’re going to sing the praises of your fruit.” It might perhaps rather be collaborations with Berlin-based queer and punk collaborators Joel Gibb and Peaches. While a lot of reviews have pointed to the classic sound of a band content to deliver the goods to devoted fans, the “now” into which they are collapsing seems very much to be the queer, collaborative ferment of art and music in Berlin. At least the video for Mine Smell Like Honey has a very Berlin look and feel to it, from Stipe’s bearded bear look to the improvisational dance up some grimy Kreuzberg-looking stairs. It captures the loose, collaborative feel of the city. Queer music may today increasingly be about such convivial ambience, following the template set by artists like Antony and the Johnsons.