After a three-decade career and fifteen studio albums (some as transcendental as “Out Of Time” and “Automatic For The People“), the fathers of alt rock have decided to disband for good.
Today, the following message was posted on the band’s website:
“To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.” R.E.M.
Michael Stipe later elaborated:
“A wise man once said–‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it.
I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.
We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”Continue reading →
In Spite Of Some Omissions Like "Shiny Happy People" & "Drive" This Compliation Portrays The Band At The Peak Of Their Hit-making Powers
R.E.M. became an unstoppable force during their stay at Warner. This single disc compiles most of their ineluctable hits along with some rarities and previously unreleased tracks to keep collectors entertained.
All of their Warner albums are featured; “Automatic For The People” is the one that has more tracks in (4 in total), whereas the least represented discs are “Out Of Time” and “Monster” (only one track each – “Losing My Religion” and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” respectively). And the remaining discs (“Green”, “Up”, “Reveal” and “New Adventures in Hi Fi”) are summarized in two songs per album.
Even someone who isn’t that well-versed on their catalog will spot some omissions that are bitter to swallow. Both “Shiny Happy People” (“Out Of Time”) and “Drive” (“Automatic For The People”) have been excluded. “Shiny Happy People” might be one of the stupidest songs since the dawn of time, but it was their one and only Top 5 hit both in America and in Europe. The band has professed its deep abhorrence for the song. Fair enough. But Radiohead does not omit “Creep” on anthologies, no matter how much they grew to detest it. Continue reading →
The cover of “Green” (R.E.M’s major label debut) is meant to be stared at for a while. Then, if you close your eyes the negative image you will see will be all green. I must admit it never worked out like that for me. Who knows, maybe you need the assistance of a Mr. Tambourine Man for the trick to be done!
Transition albums necessarily fall into any of two categories. They either capture an artist in a completely unsure frame, or they convey a graceful broadening of horizons that results in a mixture of old and new sounds in a way seeming entirely natural.
I seem to believe that most transition albums fall in the former category, whereas I can count on one hand those who do deliver something as enticing as what the artist always has to offer. One of the few examples of “successful” transition albums to me is XTC’s “English Settlement”, an album that I find so intoxicating that I have listened to it a trillion times, and will have to do so a trillion times more before feeling I am capable of expressing its every nuance.
And right besides that album by the unique British art rockers I have to place “Green”, the first album R.E.M was to release for Warner. The year was 1988, and the band had signed with the major record label looking for broader promotion. By that point they had the right qualifications, of course – hits like “The One I Love” and “It’s the End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” were just the tip of the iceberg.
“Green” was to mark a series of firsts for the band. To begin with, three songs were to feature Buck’s mandolin prominently on the mix, and they all three worked more than fine, with the first of them (“You Are The Everything”) announcing a change of tack that was to led to an artistic renaissance for the Athens’ band. Secondly, Stipe changed his MO – he began writing songs in situ, as the others were throwing musical ideas around. Many songs’ lyrics were to have a cumulative effect such as the biting “I Remember California” in which Michael sings “I recall it wasn’t fair, recollect it wasn’t fair, remembering it wasn’t fair” in order to express bottled feeling with an unparalleled precision. The same approach was employed on “World Leader Pretend” (“I demand a rematch, decree a stalemate, I divine my deeper motives” – note the alliterations in both examples), and that is not counting the many enumerations are mirrored structures like the first line of every verse in “Pop Song 89”, an aptly-named tune that presaged some (far more radical) poppier moments that were to come such as “Shiny Happy People”. Continue reading →
REM's Fourth Album For Warner. The Record Was Named "Monster". It Came Out In 1994.
After the somehow pastoral textures of “Out Of Time” and “Automatic For The People” (with mandolins and orchestras taking center stage), nobody could have blamed the band if they wanted to rock out a little once more. And that is what they did on their 1994 release. Named “Monster”, it was a return to their basic sound, and one that elicited strong reactions both in the buying public and in critics. One thing is for sure: the album did leave no one indifferent.
Personally, I find the sound a little unimaginative, with the guitar always going “wahh, wahhhh, wahhhhh” and Michael’s voice left intentionally low on the mix and /or completely distorted (“I Took Your Name”). When the record kicks in (with the successful single “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”) I am momentarily thrilled, but I quickly become a bit bored until a couple of more subdued performances do roll in. These include the beautiful single “Strange Currencies” and the organ-pumped “Tongue”. The voice is crisp there, and it is easier to focus on the actual message. Continue reading →
"Automatic For The People" By R.E.M. Year Of Release: 1992.
The follow-up to the critically-acclaimed “Out Of Time” (1991), “Automatic For The People” (1992) feels like the perfect successor to the previous offering to me. Now a broader scope of themes is broached, and personal compositions such as “Nightswimming” are turned into wider statements about youth and the passing of time. Mortality is also another recurrent topic, with the songs “Try Not To Breathe” and “Sweetness Follows” treading heavy territory. “Try Not To Breathe” deals with an old man’s resolution to die, based on his will not to be a burden to his family any longer. And “Sweetness Follows” is a song that makes you realize that you don’t have to wait for the end to come in order to bury the hatchet and make peace with any member of your family.
The album also has the highly successful “Everybody Hurts”, with one of the best orchestrated fades of the record. The title is explicit enough, and the song on the whole is just that bit too slow for my liking. But it has “hit” written all over it. The accompanying video was also a clever one, using subtitles that matched and then moved away from the actual lyrics to drive the point home: harming others is human nature in itself. It is not a matter of superiority. Nietzsche used to say that only he who does wrong can do right. I guess he had a point. And so does R.E.M. here. Continue reading →
R.E.M.'s "Out Of Time" Was Issued In 1991 To Strong Reviews And Sales. It Included The Hits "Losing My Religion" & "Shiny Happy People".
“Out Of Time” (1991) was to be R.E.M.’s second release for Warner, and it was also the record that led the band to levels of popularity that surpassed all their expectations. Of course, that also means that (as any band with a serious cult following that makes it to the big time) they were faced with the odious “what-have-you-done-to-us-your-true-fans”. It didn’t certainly help that the disc included “Shiny Happy People”, a song considered one of the stupidest ever by a major band, and that the song was a transatlantic hit.
Leaving aside that composition (and how sickly catchy it is, I must add) the album is characterized by a tremendous world-weariness in terms of lyrics and motifs. Two songs use the expression “the world is collapsing”, and the adjective “hollow” is also featured in different compositions, and repeated as part of choruses. Besides, the one instrumental cut of the album goes by the name of “Endgame”. Continue reading →
A 90s Picture Of R.E.M. Featuring Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills & Bill Berry
We all know how pointless it is, but still we take part of conversations along the lines of “The best band ever was…” or “The best guitarist in history will always be…”. It is pointless, because there is not a parameter that we could agree upon to base the judgment on. Is the best guitarist the one with the best technique? The one with the fastest fingers? The one who plays the best solos? I recall the uproar caused by a list published in Rolling Stone detailing the “100 Best Guitar Players Ever” in which Johnny Ramone was in the Top 20. Some were enraged, and some defended the placement.
Still, I think that we take part of such discussions if only because we feel that championing our best-loved band is a way of bringing new converts in. And if you are over 30, I know that you have taken part of the “What’s the best band of the 80s?” discussion. And chances are, if you didn’t go for U2 you actually went for R.E.M.
Hailing from Athens (Georgia), the band fronted by Michael Stipe has had a career of note. It can be split in three sections. The first was the underground one. It started in 1982 with the release of the “Chronic Town” EP (on Hib-Tone), and the subsequent releases for I.R.S. This stage ended when they signed up with Warner in pursuit of broader international outreach in 1988.
The Earliest Picture Of R.E.M. I Have Ever Come Across
With Warner, they were to get that and become international superstars. The albums “Out Of Time” (1991) and “Automatic For The People” (1992) are indisputably the high points of their tenure at Warner, and the guys were to eventually renew their contract for about 80 million dollars (a record-breaking amount at the time). The year was 1996, and the next year they were to lose their long-standing drummer owing to health complications. Continue reading →