R.E.M. Broke Up Yesterday
R.E.M. is no more. After 31 years of odd jangle and cryptic catchiness, the Athens, Georgia, college radio legends have broken up. The break up, announced on the band’s website yesterday seems nothing but amicable, with each band member giving his own thoughts on the split. Singer Michael Stipe writes, “A wise man once said–‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it.”
Stipe, too, then, is a wise man. This break up came as a surprise but it does make sense if you think about it. What would they do next? After three decades of music, most of which is incredible, it sort of seems like the smartest decision. Still, it is sad, I suppose, so let’s take a little time to reflect on this truly great band. All over the internet, people older than me and more invested in R.E.M. are writing some of their favorite memories down. Read Sasha Frere-Jones classy New Yorker piece here.
And below, I do a little reflection of my own. The best of the best of R.E.M.’s catalog:
“Radio Free Europe” and “Perfect Circle” from their mumbly and beautiful 1983 debut, Murmur
“Just a Touch” from the very weird 1986 album Lifes Rich Pageant (yeah that’s right, no aposthrophe. Weird.)
Just A Touch
“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, “Disturbance at the Heron House”, “Finest Worksong”, and “King of Birds” from the perhaps my favorite R.E.M. album, 1987’s ridiculously solid Document
“Sweetness Follows” from the massive ’92 LP, Automatic for the People
“Crush With Eyeliner” and “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” from the criminally undervalued (literally, these are like 99 cents or less and used record stores have like at least 6 copies on hand at all times) Monster (1994)
R.E.M. was a unique band. Starting out very weird but getting attention and fame without really changing all that much. They were able to keep their edge relatively sharp while simultaneously blowing up into pop icons. They will be missed.
On the plus side, though, maybe used copies of Monster will go up in a price just a little bit so it’s not so fucking sad when I see 6 copies in the used CD bin for 99 cents each.