Monday 19 August 2019

REM split and no, it's not the end of the world as we know it


BEST news of the past week had to be REM's decision to finally call it a day. Don't get me wrong, after seeing an edgy REM supporting U2 at Croke Park in 1985 I became a fan. But for the past decade and more, REM's studio output has been hit and miss.

The music press headline writers who went for the obvious during the week got it badly wrong: REM's split is not the end of the world as we know it.

REM accomplished a lot over the course of 31 years, selling 70 million records in the process. The early years were marked by press adulation, but not so much commercial success. Then came the golden era, starting with 'Document' (their first album to sell a million) and the single ' The One I Love'. Through the early to mid nineties, REM became one of the biggest bands in the world, crafting songs that are now regarded as classics ('Losing My Religion', 'Everybody Hurts', 'Man on the Moon').

REM have struggled with consistent quality control since drummer Bill Berry's departure in 1997. This year's 'Collapse Into Now' album (their 15th) was their best for some time, but there were times when Stipe and company sounded as if they were simply going through the motions.

REM's Mike Mills says the band will remain friends and that ' there's no disharmony, no falling-out, no lawyers squaringoff '.

Of the split, Michael Stipes says ' 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'.

And Peter Buck adds: '[ We] walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world.'

Reading between the lines, it's clear that REM did not make the decision to call it a day lightly, and that they feared they had little more to offer as a band.

Certainly they faced an uphill battle to remain relevant and in touch. They made the right and honest decision to shut up shop before becoming a parody of themselves.

And there are other who have overstayed their welcome in the pop arena who should now follow that lead.

It should come as no surprise that a new REM greatest hits collection 'Part Lies, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011' will be released in November, to cash in on the mountain of publicity surrounding the split, and tap into the lucrative Christmas market. The collection will include all the hits plus new tracks recorded after the completion of their final album 'Collapse Into Now'.

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