Friday, 23 September 2011


The first album I ever bought myself (that I can remember), out of my own cash, under my own steam at the age of 10 was the amazing Automatic for the People. One of REM finest pieces of work, in fact I'd go as far as one of the finest albums ever to grace us with its presence.

Ever since then, and my subsequent purchase of every album and many many of the singles REM released (including an original vinyl Chronic Town EP... I have no record player), they have sat comfortably at the head of my favourite bands/artists list. For the record that currently reads:

1. R.E.M. (now defunct)
2. Ben Folds (inclusive of Ben Folds 5)
3. Foo Fighters
4. Jonathan Coulton
5. Green Day

But is very changeable, but what is a constant is R.E.M.

Yesterday, R.E.M. of course announced they are to split, there now will be no new R.E.M. material (except the obligatory 'few new tracks on the best of' which apparently they have already). To be fair their last album wasn't exactly a masterpiece, but the one before was, so there may well have been some life in the old dog yet, but they've chosen to walk away before they fade in to some kind of tribute act to how they used to be, and that's probably the correct decision. I would have liked maybe a farewell tour, only having seen them live twice, but alas was not to be. Plus doubtless they'd have charged through the nose for the tickets.

Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage will apparently appear on 15th November and will cover their whole career 82-11. I will pick that up, as doubtless it will be a triumph. However I will say in advance, without even knowing the track listing or having any indication of it, that's not songs I'd have picked. Shiny Happy Fucking People better not be on therte. 

I always thought of them as quite a versatile band, even in their advancing years they could make one hell of a noise, in quite a melodic way. They were equally adapt at acoustics and rock and swayed from style to style pretty randomly.

They lost a very strong songwriter in Bill Berry before the Up album and documentaries show how it almost finished them off, against their will, then. That would have been a shame as I don't think the others were ready to quit yet (Berry had been ill, collapsing on stage in Switzerland once as a result of a brain aneurysm I believe). They powered on though and Up is aa triumph in doing something different, it's a very different sound, contains some of Stipes strongest lyrics, particularly Falls to Climb clearly detailing the bands infighting following Berrys departure.

It's not all good of course, there have been songs which are poor, Imitation of Life was quite a poor single as was Daysleeper, especially when you think there were far stronger tracks on both albums that deserved the attention more.

I fully recommend anyone who's interest has been peaked by them splitting up, pick up an album! Why not, most of them are dirt cheap now, I'd recommend Accelerate or Monster for a mostly heavy sound, Out of Time for the more acoustic sound or Murmur or Automatic for the People or the sublime New Adventures in Hi-Fi for all round greatness.

The existing best of isn't the 'best of' but it's pretty damn good too.

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