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.