Sunday, 2 October 2011

Goodbye R.E.M.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

But I feel fine. Music journos all over the world spent years waiting for the day when they could finally make that joke and unfortunately this week the news came. After 31 years, R.E.M. announced they were calling it a day.

Boasting a career that many bands can only dream of, R.E.M. released 15 albums in their timespan, enjoying mass popularity while at the same time retaining a cult following. Songs such as ‘Man On The Moon’, ‘Shiny Happy People’ and ‘Losing My Religion’ enabled them to permeate culture but allowed them to keep their nonchalant air and the anonymity to write and perform how they wanted to.

The return of alternative rock in the 90s allowed R.E.M. to flourish. Michael Stipe’s baffling but somehow still poignant lyrics began to properly connect with a scene fed up of Brit Pop brats and the grunge obsession. It seemed that maybe they would become the leaders of a familiar genre to conquer the new directions taken by bands like Nirvana and Blur, but it was not to be, as they continued to fade in and out of obscurity over the next decade or so.

Being an R.E.M. fan has always been a tense experience with many of their albums being a bit hit and miss and failing to live up to the high standards previously set by records like ‘Murmur’ and ‘Green’. Although ‘Accelerate’ suggested a possible return to form, most recent record ‘Collapse Into Now’ failed to connect to the majority of fans, leaving many feeling that it was the right time for the band to draw a line under their time together.

Michael Stipe once said that the reason R.E.M. had managed to stay together for so long was due to the fact that they had never put their faces on an album cover and it is this kind of ethic which means that they are one of the few bands who have managed to break up with their dignity still remaining intact. 

By Jessy Parker

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