Talk about the passion

I’ve heard that R.E.M. (the band, not the sleep state) broke up today. I will always think fondly of R.E.M., if only for the early years in which I worked as the band’s lead singer…

I respect a band that knows it’s time to throw in the towel rather than dragging themselves and their fans through an agonizing morass of obligatory releases. Outside of “Radio Song,” I don’t think R.E.M. ever produced anything genuinely bad, though everything they recorded after about 1995 failed to stand out to me in any real way. I can’t remember a single song from Up, and while I enjoyed Reveal it lacked any real teeth or energy. Automatic for the People and New Adventures in Hi-Fi were a lot like U2’s output from the same era in the way they broke from the band’s safety zone and promised an energetic renaissance that never really happen. At least they had an excuse, since they lost their drummer; I don’t know what U2’s deal was.

Then again, maybe I just like those albums because they came out when I was an impressionable teenager and the band was totally awesome after that. I can confidently say that their early albums like Murmur and Fables of the Reconstruction are genuinely great, though, since I didn’t discover them until a few years ago and still enjoyed them in my dotage.

Like every dumb kid, music got me through some tough times, and R.E.M. was one of those bands. It’s a shame to see the band as an institution dissolved, I’m a little relieved that they were able to let it go. There’s little in the world more heart-wrenching than watching the living corpse of a band you loved shamble about the stage.

10 thoughts on “Talk about the passion

  1. Well, I really think it was about time. They gave us more than enough great albums (I’m mostly thinking of Murmur and Fables as well, but there are a certainly more). Then they treaded water for at least 15 years.

    I guess I’m just hoping that the guys who made up the band now have a chance to do something different and vital for a change.

  2. I actually sorta liked the album Accelerate from a few year ago, but yeah. I guess this isn’t a terrible thing.

    On the other hand… I’ll probably never get to see them in concert. Not that my chances were high to begin with, I guess. But yeah.

    Anyway, this was news to me. But what do I know?

  3. You were a heck of a singer back in those days, man.

    New Adventures remains one of my favourite albums. It’s perfect driving music on a cloudy day.

  4. I own three of R.E.M.’s albums – Murmur, Reckoning, and Automatic for the People. While the first two have gone out of interest for my listening pleasure, Automatic for the People remains one of the most listenable albums I own. I still listen to it start to finish at least once every two weeks, and I don’t even know now how long I’ve owned it. I have an obsession with album closers, and the closing set Man on the Moon, Nightswimming, and Find the River is one of the finest I can think of. A truly great band.

  5. Liked their earlier music. Not sure what they have been up to lately, but I remember hating “Leaving New York” almost as much as Billy Corgans solo stuff.

  6. While I can’t say too much of their stuff post New Adventures in Hi-fi appealed to me, I’ve seen them live twice and they were easily one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. Michael Stipe is an incredibly good frontman.

    For that alone they should be missed.

  7. I loved REM’s stuff from the Nineties when I was a kid, but I got their Eighties’ catalog when I was (appropriately) eighteen. Murmur, Reckoning, Fables, etc. all blew my shy, teenage mind.

    While I love Up (some of their best melodies ever) and Reveal, their attempts at rockin’ relevance these past few years has left me cold. Much like the Simpsons, however, they’ve been around for as long as I can remember, so it’s weird to see them depart. The Simpsons should take a hint.

  8. I was playing my only REM record (Life’s Rich Pageant) for the second time earlier this week. The next morning I read REM has announced their breaking up.

    Then back in July, I cued up Blancmange’s final record (“Believe You Me”) from 1986. A Google search informed me their brand-new comeback album was slated for release the next day!

    My records are imbued with arcane and mystical energy.

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