Monday, 26 September 2011
Last week came word of the break up of the most successful band to emerge from the post-punk era. And although it could be argued that R.E.M's music wasn't necessarily punk or post-punk for that matter, it was still an amazing feat that those nerds from Athens GA ever became so popular playing such nerdy music.
I feel a little conflicted by their decision. Some would argue that this decision was about 15 years too late. They haven't been on the radar let alone the radio for some time. They've certainly been lost in the wilderness since the departure of founding member and drummer Bill Berry. Which is all too sad for me because they were hands down my favourite band from 1986 to 1996. Life's Rich Pageant (1986) remains my all time favourite album. Not necessarily for the quality of songs but rather the mood and contradiction. Peter Buck's aggressive jangly guitars mixed with Micheal Stipe's indecipherable lyrics that said so much. I will never tire of those songs. I thank my brother John for introducing me to this album. Never not the same.
The album was the last of their early period jangle angle which started with their 1982 EP Chronic Town.
Their second era started with Document(1987) and the hit song The One I Love. This era marked the emergence of Stipe as frontman with a voice. They soon began experimenting more organic instrumentation which should have been a disaster. But somewhere along the way a new generation who grew up with New Wave and College music thought that the band deserved a place on the charts. Soon they were the darlings of MTV.
But great success doesn't always sit well with an introspective band. They played live shows less and less. This was the beginning of the third phase, which also coincided with Bill Berry's aneurysm in 1995. Unsure of what to do next they tried everything except write decent songs. They officially lost me after the release of New Adventures In Hi-Fi (1996). I don't think they made a conscious decision to lose their fans, but not being accessible to those who buy your music creates a icy distance. They tried to regroup but failed to recapture their glory. Too sad. They never really needed to break up. Perhaps a 5 year hiatus and reunion tour would have brought fans back. But we live with the decisions we make. Farewell my R.E.M.