Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All Good Things Must Come to end: R.E.M calls it a day

My favorite band of all time has called it quits. After 31 years R.E.M has broken up. Even surviving the departure of original member Bill Berry a rumoured January 2000 breakup as well the band has continued strong with a slew of albums and lots of success. They are also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so there place in Rock history is assured. And to be totally honest I am kind of glad they are done. The last few years have been a tough time to be a fan to see has their music doesn't resonate with the public as much as it did in the early 90s and they were getting older and the music was not as good as it used to be. Don't get me wrong it is still great music but with the exception of a couple of songs their best years have past.

I'm still trying to wrap my thoughts around this so this post may be a bit off kilter. I got into them at the tail end of high school. I think just before they broke open with OUT OF TIME their most successful album that landed them on the map. My friend Matt Saunders is the one who introduced me to them as well as They Might Be Giants. I remember that my sister had gotten a tape single of The One I Love and I kept replaying it over and over. Matt had all their early albums so he made tapes for me of their early stuff, I also went to the record store and picked up as many of the albums as I could on tape too. Whereas I loved Murmur, I found Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction to not be my cup of tea. (At the time. Reckoning is better to me now but Fables is still off) Life's Rich Pagent and Document blew me away and I was hooked. ( I consider LRP to be their 2nd best album of all time). Green was the new REM. The first one to come out of a major record label (Warner Brothers) and it had all the makings of a pop album. And boasts one of my favorite songs of all time of theirs Get UP. But Out of Time is when everyone got it. When REM took the world by storm. Soon they were everywhere. They were selling millions of copies. They were getting name dropped in TV shows and Movies and they were Grammy winners. The thing is Out of Time is an all right album to me. I like it, but it felt too mainstream. Which is fine since it is what made them famous. Then they drop Automatic for the People. My absolute favorite REM album of all time and their second most successful. A perfect remedy to the poppy Out of Time. Automatic had some pop moments but it also delved back into some of the old school REM I loved. Then came Monster. An album that is my next to last favorite album. It has gotten a little better as I got older. But there is just something about it that I don't like. The first half is good but about midpoint it disappoints.  Never fear. New Adventures in Hi-Fi rolls in and is excellent (my third favorite album of theirs). Unfortunatly it was also the last one with Bill Berry who had gotten burned out and left the group. Many thought that this may have been the end of REM because they had said if one went they would all go. But Bill Berry told them don't you dare break up. And they didn't. Heck he even came out and played with them a few times.

Their first adventure without him was actually writing the score for the Jim Carrey Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. One of my favorite songs The Great Beyond came out of that movie, but that and Man on the Moon were the only songs they did for the film. Their score was pure instrumental. Their first album was Up which is not really a great song, Day Sleeper is really the only song I truly love from the album, but to be fair it is the one album along with Fables I have not really listened to fully over and over like the other ones. They rebounded with Reveal or what I call The Summer album. A good portion of the album is filled with great songs and showed that they could go on without Berry. I called it the summer album because most of the songs feel very summery and go so far as to have references galore to summertime. (One track is called BeachBall, and Imitation of Life is a song about memories of childhood summers). Unfortunatly their next album Around the Sun could very well have been the death knell of the band. Critical ravaged, did not even break the top 10 album charts and really only produced two good songs in my opinion. Because of this failure REM regrouped and got a new Producer ditching their long time Producer. What came out of it was a minor rebirth for the band in the critically acclaimed Accelerate, and a tour. The last time they toured. Accelerate also did very well in the sales department and is excellent as well as extremely fast. Their final album was released about 6 months before they decided to break up. Collapse into Now was another excellent album that played well with it's brother Accelerate and could have lead REM into a new era. But they felt it was time to call it a day and retire.

Now I started writing this a day or so after they broke up. Now 4 months later it's not all that bad. They released a best of album in November. The big thing that came out of their break up was the sheer amount of people who beleived they had all ready broken up which just goes to show you, they started out as a cult band, hit their stride at the right time, became hugely famous band, lost a founding member and began to fade from view going back to their cult band status. It was time. They came full circle (or Perfect Circle if you will. The name of one of their songs from their first mainstream album Murmur) Now REM can depart in Peace. I have all their albums and as long as I have them they will never go away. One day I will get to my top 101 REM songs of all time. But for now I will sit in my car and listen to the songs I like and ignore the ones I dont. They have plenty. Who knows maybe they can continue to live if I pass my passion for them onto my kids. Night boys. It's been a fun ride. Enjoy your retirement.

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