OK, so now I’ve got your attention with that mildly douchebaggy headline, let me explain myself. I mean no malice by it.
R.E.M. are a brilliant and important band. In Michael Stipe they have – or had – a lyricist with an alchemical touch, with the unerring ability to poleaxe you with emotion even when you have no idea what the chuff he’s on about (pushing elephants up the stairs, “leaving was never my proud” etc).
Seriously, how does he do that? It’s an uncannny talent.
So obviously R.E.M. have been responsible for some astonishing music. But almost all of it was a long, long time ago. Splitting up now is the dignified thing to do. Because R.E.M. committed the cardinal sin of rock n’ roll. They sucked for longer than they ruled.
Since about 1995, being an R.E.M. fan has being a faintly masochistic experience – a pained feeling of endless optimism, never quite relinquishing the hope that this time, just maybe, the band might recapture the magic of their ‘80s masterworks.
But those hopes were always crushed. Album after album, let-down after let-down. Has any band ever had quite so much desperate good will directed towards them? Millions of believers just willing them to be good again.
But the results were always just… OK. Oh sure, ‘Accelerate’ got glowing return-to-form reviews at the time. But how good was it really? No, I don’t mean how good did you want it to be. How good really. Be honest: that album sucked catastrophic balls.
Ditto ‘Up’. Ditto ‘Collapse Into Now’. A few decent tracks, and then the rest, for all your desperate desire to like them… just… meh.
It’s no great tragedy. Sometimes bands lose their creative fire and never get it back. No wait, not sometimes. Always. It’s the cast-iron law of creative endeavour, and we shouldn’t mourn it.
Just remember them this way.
And this way.
And this way.
But not this way.
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