So R.E.M. is calling it a career. After 31 years and 15 albums, they announced yesterday that the ride out of Georgia was over.
“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.” R.E.M.
It’s funny, but as I was going through their discography, I assumed there were more albums. They put out one a year since 1983, but then in 1988 the gaps between records started increasing. I guess it makes sense as it always seemed like they made music on their own terms and in their own time. It always seemed to be about making the best record possible.
In 1995 Bill Berry collapsed on stage from a brain aneurism and left the band in 1997. Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck carried on, but in 2011, at least for now, they are done. They end on a high note, as their last two albums were really strong, and their catalog changed the face of college radio and alternative rock music. Of course this is not the end of creativity and other musical projects… Michael Stipe has had success in the film world… and Peter Buck has been a part of many other outfits like The Minus 5, The Baseball Project, and Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3.
“Driver 8” (one of my favorite R.E.M. songs) comes from Fables of the Reconstruction, but today’s album selection is…
R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant
This album, their 4th, came out in 1986 and began to push the band into more mainstream success. It would become their first Gold Record. According to Buck, they took the title from an Inspector Clouseau line in A Shot in the Dark.
Inspector Clouseau opens car door and falls into a fountain.
Maria: “You should get out of these clothes immediately. You’ll catch your death of pneumonia, you will.”
Clouseau: “Yes, I probably will. But it’s all part of life’s rich pageant, you know?”
I have previously discussed Murmur, their debut album, which is certainly quieter than this one… but Lifes Rich Pageant seems to be more of a move away from Fables of the Reconstruction, which was, according to AllMusic “creepy, rustic psychedelic folk, filled with eerie sonic textures.” AllMusic says this one “emphasizes the beat, and the band turns in its hardest rockers to date, including the anthemic “Begin the Begin” and the punky “Just a Touch.”
The Byrds influenced, alternative rock style still comes on strong.
One of the main criticisms, which I agree with, is that sometimes you can not understand the lyrics when Stipe sings. Intentional? Perhaps… but here is in good voice… in both senses of that… and this is great all the way through, clear and strong.
If I had to pick my stand outs they would be:
The above two songs, of course… “Fall on Me,” “Superman,” “These Days” and “Swan Swan H.”
Myles Standish proud, baby!!!
And so, like in ancient Greece, a fantastic society came out of Athens… and in similar fashion, sadly, that same society will vanish. It’s the end of the world as we know it and I won’t go back to Rockville.