REM’s album Dead Letter Office is my The Gods Must Be Crazy. The film The Gods Must Be Crazy is about a primitive African tribe. A pilot high over head drops a Coke bottle from his plane. It lands among the tribe. They wonder about this gift. They fight over it and conclude that the gods must be crazy for giving them such a divisive gift. This simple tossed-away thing means so much to them.
Dead Letter Office is a series of B-side songs. These are the songs not good enough for the album. As a teenager, I didn’t know this. To me, it was a legitimate album no better nor worse than any other REM albums. I only had one other REM album, so I did not have much to compare it to. I also did not know that songs like “Toys in the Attic” or “There She Goes Again” were cover versions of classic rock songs. I didn’t know better.
I also did not know that “Voice of Harold” was simply a different set of lyrics sung over the same music as REM’s song “Seven Chinese Brothers.” I had not heard that one either so to me “Voice of Harold” was just a great song and not derivative of anything superior. Sometimes is OK not to know better.