"Haborcoat" is the first track off of R.E.M.'s 1984 release Reckoning — the second album for the folky, jangle pop band. For their sophomore release, the subject matter is gloomier than their critically acclaimed debut Murmur.
Did you know water imagery is found all over this record? And, in fact, a harborcoat would be a coat so impenetrable to the elements surround a body of water, offering protection. There's certainly an underlying empathy in this song which is dense with references. We've heard everything from the Russian Revolution and the poor working class to Jews in Nazi Germany and a rewriting of Anne Frank Diaries.
For how breezy this song sounds at first, lyrics like "metal shivs on wood they push through our back" and "there's a splinter in your eye it reads REACT" work in stark contrast. It's a confounding, enamoring song.
This video is a snippet from R.E.M.'s full-length movie, Succumbs, featuring video footage shot by Michael Stipe that captures the band at its earliest.