Are you the kind of person who is always on the go? Do you feel left out because you don’t have the time to keep up with all of the latest news from R.E.M.? Have you spent hours sitting around wondering what it is that Michael Stipe is saying in the chorus of “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”? Are you currently trying to figure out when Athens Music Junkie changed from a music blog to a late night infomercial? In reference to that last question, so are we. I guess we’re just so excited about the recent release of the R.E.M. iPhone app that we just can’t stop ourselves from being a little cheesy.
When I first heard that an official R.E.M. iPhone app was in the works, I was pretty excited. When I heard that it was going to be free, I was even more excited. When it was actually released, I was completely thrilled. And by completely thrilled, I mean that I downloaded it as quickly as I could and then trekked through the cold and rain to the library to test it out with wifi at my earliest convenience. It was worth it. From an aesthetic standpoint alone, the application is amazing. For an R.E.M. fan like myself, it’s like magic.
Upon clicking the icon (orange and white, with the R.E.M. megaphone), a four part menu is brought up, breaking the application into four sections: Band, Music, Fan to Fan, and Store, and each section is chock full of features to explore.
Band: In many ways, the band section of the application acts as a mobile version of the R.E.M. website, and the five categories (News, Live, Photos, Lyrics and Extras/Links) are simply mobile versions of what can be found there. This is not, however, a slight towards the app in any way, as it is well organized and better suited for an iPhone or iPod than the website itself is. It is very streamlined and easy to navigate, and you can be sure that you’ll be up to date on any and all breaking R.E.M. news, even when you’re away from your computer. There’s also a nifty little animation of Peter’s Rickenbacker that pops up when the page is loading (which may or may not be my favorite part of the app).
Music: Here you’ll find streaming audio clips and videos, along with liner notes, album art, and track listings for the entirety of R.E.M.’s discography. Like the band section, this provides little more than the website itself, but it looks nice and works well, so why complain? After all, it’s hard to find the music videos on YouTube nowadays, and sometimes you just really need to watch the video for “Stand.”
Fan to Fan: This section of the app is definitely the most fun for fans. Here you will find photos and videos taken by fans during the 2008 tour, a handy little guide to Athens, and a cool feature where you can upload a photo whenever you’re listening to an R.E.M. song. That last one, “R.E.M. and You,” is one of the few features that you really need an iPhone to take advantage of, since it would be easiest to take a picture with the built in camera and then upload it using the app.
iPod users can take advantage of this feature, too, it’s just a little more complicated, as you must take a picture, put it on the iPod, and then upload it using the app (P.S. In order to upload photos, you have to have a Flickr account). The only other part that requires an iPhone rather than an iPod is the “Chat With the Band” feature, where you can call up Mike Mills whenever you want and he is required to talk to you, on a subject of your choice, for at least five minutes (OK, I’m making that one up).
Store: Just in case you haven’t spent enough on swag at concerts, they’re making it even easier for you to order t-shirts, posters and CDs on the go through the store section. Here you’ll find a link that takes you to an R.E.M. search of the iTunes store, as well as links to the two versions of their merchandise shops. Now I personally think it would be easier to just go to the website on a computer to order a t-shirt, but I suppose there are situations when you’re on your iPhone and you just REALLY need that one shirt from the tour six years ago that just went on sale. Believe me, I have no room to judge.
So for those of you who got lost along the way, I approve of this app. And really, how could I not? It’s free, it looks good, and it certainly has some fun features to play with. Sure, a lot of what it provides can be found on the website, but I’m not going to complain. Go forth and download, and keep an eye out for the update, which will surely have that “Chat With the Band” feature I came up with.