R.E.M- The Great Beyond
After 31 years and just six months after the release of their 15th studio album, R.E.M has called it a day. Like most of their career they did it with little fanfare - an announcement on their website with Michael (Stipe), Mike (Mills), and Peter (Buck) leaving some parting words. As a classic rock junkie, this is new territory for me. I've never had a favorite band dis-band. I knew there would never be new music from Creedence Clearwater Revival. They called it quits 13 years before I was alive. The same goes for the Buffalo Springfield. By the time I was listening to music, Neil Young was a solo artist.All my life, after hit song and critically acclaimed (or panned as was the case with "Around the Sun") album, I could always look forward to new R.E.M. But not anymore. While they are working on a greatest hits compilation that is said to include some unrealeased songs, the R.E.M singles have been played and the discography is set. From this point forward it will always be "classic" R.E.M.While I can't pinpoint the exact moment in which R.E.M became my favorite band, it most definitely occurred during my adolescent years, some 15 years ago. And when you consider the lyrics and sounds of R.E.M, especially their early stuff of which I would have been listening to following their rise to great success in the early 90s, it makes total sense. It's not a sound of teen angst but rather of wonderment, questioning, and of course indecipherable lyrics. I could relate to Stipe and that's what music is all about for me - making a connection.Admittedly most of their critical success came before I was listening to them (it also came retroactively on albums made before that time) when people looked back at their early stuff based upon the success of "Document", "Out of Time" and "Automatic for the People". Thanks to those albums, R.E.M reached their commercial success in the mid-90s, signing in 1996 an $80 million record deal, which at the time was the largest contract ever.There will always be debate about R.E.M- the four man band and R.E.M- the three man band. The argument is that R.E.M was never the same after the departure, in October 1997, of drummer Bill Berry. And that much is fact. But only because music, especially with a good band, is always evolving. The R.E.M that released "Murmur", absolutely no questions asked pioneering music, in 1983, was not the same R.E.M that released 1992's critically acclaimed, "Automatic for the People". Nor is it the same R.E.M that just six months ago released "Collapse Into Now" which everybody claimed as "the return of old R.E.M".R.E.M never went anywhere, they just evolved. Good music is good music. And "Around the Sun" is not good music. And the band admits as much about "Sun". Over 31 years some bad music is going to happen. But R.E.M was always keenly aware that it didn't matter what the critics thought or what the general public thought, but rather it mattered what their dedicated fanbase and R.E.M thought about their music.A little part of me was sad today as I read the news of R.E.M's end. Because that's how we are - selfish. We want our favorite bands to make music forever. But as my favorite band they've written the soundtrack to most of my life. And when I realize that, I'm not so sad anymore.While this is absolutely unfair and fails to do R.E.M justice, my fifteen favorite R.E.M songs (in chronological order):- Perfect Circle (Murmur)- So. Central Rain (Reckoning)- Fall on Me (Life's Rich Pageant)- Disturbance at the Heron House (Document)- It's the End of the World As We Know It (Document)- Orange Crush (Green)- Losing My Religion (Out of Time)- Country Feedback (Out of Time)- Man on the Moon (Automatic for the People)- Nightswimming (Automatic for the People)- Find the River (Automatic for the People)(A quick aside- The above triplet might be the best finish to an album - ever).- Ebow the Letter (New Adventures in Hi-Fi)- At My Most Beautiful (Up)- Imitation of Life (Reveal)- Hollow Man (Accelerate)- Uberlin (Collapse Into Now)
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