Thursday, September 22, 2011

Calling It A Day

R.E.M., the band that perhaps most prominently represented what was once accurately called alternative music, is "calling it a day" after being together for 31 years. According to The Manila Paper, the official announcement reads:
“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.”

REM Breaks Up: Band Announces Split After 31 Years Together
Bob Mould, of the band Husker Du, wrote a wonderful description of R.E.M.'s music today for Salon:
The music they created was often paradoxical -- literate, yet visceral; pioneering, yet reverential; commercially appealing, yet deeply personal.

Remembering R.E.M.
It's a description that applies to so much of their music, it's hard to choose an example, but for me it's this song:

You could spend weeks listening to that one, and not figure out what it all meant, and not even care. Yet the idea that change happens, and it is necessary, lies just beneath its raucous surface. In a time when positive change is resisted by so many, and frowned on by the people who ought to be bringing it about, the song's insidious call for it is a breath of fresh air.

If I ever tried to come up with a short list of greatest rock and roll albums of all time, the album that song came from, Life's Rich Pageant, would be among them. It kicks butt from beginning to end, without pausing for breath on the way.

Of course, scarcely a day goes by without their anthem, The End of The World As We Know It going through my head. That song, consisting of a mish-mash of references from pop culture and recent history, sounds like a bad night of channel surfing. It sometimes seems that these times are perfect for R.E.M., but when it's working right, art imitates life, not the other way 'round.

R.E.M. was perfect for their time.

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