Thursday, September 22, 2011


R.E.M. broke up yesterday.

Thirty years without cracking a smile. That's integrity.
A nutshell history of the band from Athens, Georgia: They were the best band of the 1980s. They released some of the greatest albums ever - not just in the cutesy genre of "college rock," but in popular music, period. After fluttering around on the fringes on stardom for several years, they achieved mainstream success in 1987 with the single "The One I Love," quite possibly the worst song ever to serve as a band's breakthrough smash. They released some extremely middling pop singles for a few years ("Shiny Happy People," really?). Then in 1992 they came out with Automatic for the People, the band's masterpiece and a defining album of post-AIDS, pre-Internet America. Then they continued to record music of little consequence for 19 years. And yesterday they broke up.

Here's my personal history with R.E.M.: That fucking band kept me sane in high school and college. Other than the Beatles, there was no band whose music was in a more constant loop on my stereo. They were brilliant and underappreciated, and goddamn I could relate. I wouldn't have made it through my first two years of college without my headphones and R.E.M.'s Reckoning. I just listened to it over the weekend, and it still gives me hope for love, life, and music. I was sad when the band's new music no longer resonated with me. I chose to stop listening rather than stop enjoying.

Michael and Mike and Peter, I wish you a wonderful retirement (and continued health and peace to Bill, who left the band in 1997). I'm incredibly grateful for the lifeline your early albums provided. You guys kicked ass like no band I ever heard before or since. This is my favorite song you ever did, by a very narrow margin over a dozen others. I know it might sound strange, but I believe you'll be coming back before too long.

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