Three decades of
soul-enriching rock ‘n’ roll comes to a close.
By Fred Mills
Speculation over R.E.M.’s future in the wake of Collapse Into Now – the group’s final
commitment to its long-standing contract with Warner Bros. – has been a parlor
game among fans for most ot 2011. This was particularly given that the band
decided not to tour behind the record (a strategy that might have worked a
decade ago but is certainly not appropriate in 2011, when artists’ main source
of income is touring, not CD or digital sales). The matter can now be
concluded: today the band announced it was breaking up.
From the R.E.M. official website:
“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.”
The media went into automatic overdrive when word got out
about the announcement. Some speculated that the mixed critical reaction to the
album played into the band’s decision (read the BLURT review here); others,
that the ongoing shakeups in the management and staff at Warner Bros. made
R.E.M. uneasy about continuing (dubious; a lot of bands with the level of clout
that R.E.M. enjoys simply take everything in-house). But whatever the case,
clearly the end of an era has arrived.
Bandmembers Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe
subsequently posted their own personal observations about the breakup. You can
read them below.
“During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and
putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves,
‘what next’? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was
a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line
under the last 31 years of our working together.
“We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who
truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in
this–there’s no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off.
We’ve made this decision together, amicably and with each other’s best
interests at heart. The time just feels right.”
“A wise man once said–‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when
it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this
thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it.
“I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must
end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.
“We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31
years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”
“One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the
fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they
did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a
part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.
“Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I
will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who
has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it’s only in the
vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club:
watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world.”