A couple of weeks ago rock music lost perhaps the greatest ‘college band’ of all-time: R.E.M, as noted at Spin Magazine and elsewhere. The Georgia group defined the alt-rock sound for close to twenty years before coasting along on a massive contract for the last decade.
And while it is easy to criticize their recent output (though Collapse into Now is decent, if not up to the high standard set back in the late 80’s and early 90’s), the music the group put out in their prime ranks with some of the greatest of the entire rock era. Most groups would be happy for a memorable song, thrilled for a major hit, and ecstatic for an anthem – R.E.M. had multiple iconic anthems and quite simply defined a generation before fading into … whatever they are now.
To commemorate the band, here are five great videos marking some landmark moments for the band:
Back in 1983, R.E.M. released their first album, Murmur. By then most folks already knew ‘Radio Free Europe’, but this cemented them at the center of the 80’s alt-rock movement.
As they matured, they began to use MTV and music videos as a tool to get their message across … whatever that message might have been, layered in Stipe’s obtuse imagery. With 1985’s Fables of the Reconstruction, the group started moving to the more complex, layered acoustic sounds that would figure into their best work. Here is the iconic Driver 8 … a song about …um … trains and stuff:
But sometimes their songs – and videos – were terribly cheesy … so here is a trio of songs that everyone knows, are loads of fun, and still great to watch (well, maybe): Stand, Shiny Happy People, and the Wayne’s World parody of the depressing earnestness of Everybody Hurts.
But at their best they were absolutely brilliant.
From 1991, when MTV Unplugged still actually meant that artists performed in an acoustic setting, R.E.M. put on a killer set.
And my last note, in 1994 the group released ‘Monster’, which could have been titled ‘Its the End of R.E.M. as we know it’. Here is the one reasonable song from that album, and the last truly memorable song they would release:
Even my wife, who has a bunch of R.E.M. CDs starting with Murmur, wasn’t surprised, and thought they might have already broken up. She asked ‘when was that last CD you played for us’? When I replied ‘about six months ago’, she said ‘oh, seems longer … I can’t even remember any of the songs’.
And that is the point – that was their best album since Automatic for the People, which came out 19 years ago … and even fans can’t recall songs.
What are your favorite R.E.M. memories? Do you expect them to get back together for the new version of the ‘old fogies tour’ in a decade (like seeing Kansas and Styx carted on stage these days)?
What are your memories