21 09 2011

REM got big for all the right reasons in the early ’80s and hopped off at the end of the line today as a group that deserves huge credit for testing new ideas for a pretty fair stretch of time.

REM carried a lot of weight on its back, being an indy foremost. There was also the weight of having made a lot of great music that a lot of people liked for a lot of years. When the quality dropped, everyone noticed. It wasn’t polite to say so, but it certainly wasn’t a secret. The band’s muse crept out a side door in the middle ’90s, but she occasionally checked back in. Not often enough for the audience, and certainly not often enough to keep the band satisfied.

Still, some good music came from the past 15 years, including New Adventures in Hi-Fi and Accelerate. Even at the band’s lowest ebbs, it was serious about making sounds that had integrity. If for no other reason than that, it’s a sad day.

Like Led Zeppelin and the Who before them, REM never recovered from the loss of its drummer. In retrospect, it’s clear that Bill Berry was crucial and irreplaceable.

To celebrate the best of REM, put on Murmur, then Reckoning, Life’s Rich Pageant, and Out of Time. That’s the REM that will be remembered and revered.

And could there be a prog-like resurrection for the band in the future? Why not. It’ll be music with integrity, something that’s always welcome.



9 responses

22 09 2011
Don J.

One of my top 8.

22 09 2011
Out There

What drives your ranking, Don?

7 12 2011
Don J.

A simple question, Out There, with a complex answer. It’s subjective, of course. I don’t play music; I am a listener. So it’s about me and what was happening in my life when I first began listening to various artists. The ones that have resonated most with me over time comprise the 8. It’s like when Rob in “High Fidelity” decides to re-sort his albums in “autobiographical” order.

7 12 2011
Out There

Taste is subjective. Who’s to say what’s good? The individual says, that’s who. If it sounds great to you, then the hell with everyone else’s opinion. Funny you should mention this because another reader sent me a note the other day about the recent (and lengthy) obituary in Uncut by editor Allan Jones, who loved REM and will desperately miss the band, especially its ’80s incarnation and the indie scene surrounding it. That’s at the heart of why so many love REM. Those days are gone and they’re not coming back. And neither is REM. Is that a reason to mourn? Or is it a reason to put Murmur on at high volume and enjoy it for exactly what it is and what it means to you? It’s both, of course. The experience is subjective and that’s a fantastic opportunity — love the music and scene that works for you. If both are in the past, celebrate them and be glad that you still have a piece to lift your spirits. I do it daily. I wouldn’t subject Genesis Live, Sticky Fingers, In the Court of the Crimson King or Grateful Dead at the Mars Hotel on anyone else … unless they’re willing. But to me, they are a piece of the past, my own and the band’s, that comes fully alive when I need it.

22 09 2011
Mike Jacoby

It was an honor to be there with you to see them play in St. Pete more than 15 years ago. Man, how time does fly!

22 09 2011
Out There

It was also the second time we saw Radiohead, both times as a warmup.

26 09 2011
26 09 2011
Out There

I can’t disagree with him or you. Thanks, Jennifer, for the link.

25 10 2011
John Jeter

One of those write-bytes that makes me smile:
“The band’s muse crept out a side door in the middle ’90s, but she occasionally checked back in. Not often enough for the audience, and certainly not often enough to keep the band satisfied.”

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