From a piece about the Murmur book, in Pioneer Press. (Publishing 53 weekly newspapers in suburban Chicago!)
Niimi includes an appendix spelling out Michael Stipe's difficult-to-decipher lyrics. Niimi says he felt torn between leaving the words mysterious and pinning them down.
He listened to demo recordings and concert tapes to compare how Stipe sang the words -- changing them from one performance to the next.
"I did this triangulation process, like a philologist would analyze an old Biblical text," Niimi says.
Thanks to Niimi's book, R.E.M. listeners finally know that the opening lines of "Laughing" are: "Laocoön and her two sons/Pressured storm tried to move/No other more emotion bound/Martyred misconstrued."
Or are they? Niimi is hesitant to claim that his version of the Murmur lyrics is "definitive." Besides, the amorphous quality of the words is one of the reasons Niimi and so many other people consider Murmur one of the best rock albums of all time.
"People who like it are people who like ambiguity," Niimi says.