21 September 2011 | Tags: ,

The news of R.E.M.’s demise hit me like a shock. Why? In this day and age it’s presumed that bands never really “break up.” How likely is it that the members of R.E.M. will never play music with one another again, will never mount a reunion tour? Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they recorded another album in the future.

So it isn’t that. I thought it could be that I was looking forward to what they’d come up with next -┬átheir most recent album is fantastic, and on par with some of the best music of their career. But I don’t think that’s what’s affecting me, either.

This evening I was going through their back catalog, reminiscing, when I hit on this song and immediately burst into tears.

It’s a great song, but moreover it’s a song that reminds me so specifically of my youth. R.E.M. were formed one year after I was born. They were the cool, weird band that my older brother listened to when I was in elementary school. Then they became huge and he disowned them (cause that’s what he always did when the bands he liked got famous).

They’ve been around ever since. Me at thirteen, listening to Automatic for the People in my best friend’s bedroom, making up stories and dreaming about the future. Me at eighteen, driving around and getting high and playing Electrolite on repeat, bored with my life and small town and waiting to escape. Me at twenty three, paying attention to the lyrics of “The Lifting” for the first time and realizing they spoke to some repressed and sickened part of my psyche that I longed to transcend – I cried then like I cried today.

Unlike any other band I’ve ever listened to, I grew up alongside these guys and their music. And unlike any other band breakup I’ve heard news of, this one feels like losing an old friend.

5 Responses to “R.I.P.R.E.M.”

  • 1 Quiet Riot Girl Says:

    that’s the thing about fandom isn’t it? It is always contextualised and each individual experience is important. I don’t even like REM much and I am moved by your post!

    A band that broke my heart by splitting up is Ambulance Ltd. I saw them support another band when I’d never heard of them and was totally blown away. Their first album was amazing and if I listen to it I am always transported back to that gig where I first saw them. They were making a second album, produced by Scott Walker(!) and then they just broke up. I am STILL upset and it was about 5 years ago.

  • 2 Quiet Riot Girl Says:

    It’s never a good idea to try and introduce someone to a new (old) band when they are grieving for an old one, but I am going to try anyway!

    Ambulance Ltd RIP:


  • 3 Natty Says:

    Jangly and melodic and dreamy – I like it!

  • 4 Jak_Frost Says:


    This performance of R.E.M. performing Swan Swan Hummingbird from their 1986 album – Life’s Rich Pageant is from the EXCELLENT music movie: ‘Athens Georgia – Inside Out’ (1987). A great documentary about the 80s Athens scene that produced, R.E.M., the B-52s, Pylon and the Bar-B-Q Killers. I saw this documentary on Much Music(Canada’s version of MTV)in 89 when they still played films about music and was obsessed with finding music by Pylon for years.
    This doc also confirmed how amazing R.E.M. is/was and their music held pride of place on my inner college mixtape. Listening to R.E.M in the company of friends, launched a million midnight conversations about art, philosophy, poetry, music, metaphor and existentialist maundering in a cloud of cigarette smoke made hazy by alcohol and the intoxication of being young and alive.
    Introverted, ambiguously definable lyrics and simple pop melodies are a great accompanying soundtrack to studying for a humanities degree. So this song will be my choice of favourite R.E.M. song.

  • 5 David Kelso Says:

    As a fan who hadn’t purchased an REM record since Adventures in HiFi, I can’t honestly say I’m awfully sad or shocked. Murmur, Fables, Out of Time and Automatic are four great albums, real classic rock with Dead Letter Office tying with Adventures for number 5 spot.
    I don’t care about bands selling out, etc. It’s harder to sell your soul than people think. It’s akin to preferring, say, early Almodovar to lush, later Almodovar with the big budgets and breathtaking camera work.
    In ’08, I saw REM for the first and only time. It was an exciting show, Stipe is nothing if not energetic as any front man I;ve ever seen. Modest Mouse w/ Johnny fuckin’ MaRR was an opening act. Marr played with Stipe and co. A rare treat.

Leave a Reply