Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Long dead, R.E.M. finally gets buried
R.E.M. has broken up. Click here for their official announcement. In it, Michael Stipe says, among other things, "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. "
Not since Michael and Stephen Dorff got outed by Details being all over each other and looking down each others' pants, his Stipe been less believable.
The time to leave was in 1987 after the release of Document, their last great album. But they got greedy. Warner Bros. was willing to pay them like they were the Rolling Stones despite the fact that they didn't sell like the Rolling Stones, despite the fact that Michael Stipe's lyrics and mumbling delivery were all about the non-specific and about the listener deciding the song meant this or that.
Once on Warner Bros. they churned out 'shinny happy pap.' There were a few good radio songs like "Everybody Hurts" and "Night Swimming." The WB albums were lame. They were often very lame. And it got worse when the hits dried up.
Their last top 40 hit was "Blame and Bang" in 1994. Their last multi-platinum studio album was 1994's Monster. Their last platinum album was 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Their next two albums only went gold and the three after that didn't even go gold. (I'm referring to US sales.)
Had they stayed on IRS, that wouldn't have mattered. But they went big label for big bucks.
To justify their WB deal, they had to sell four million each studio album.
And that's the real reason they broke up. Warner's was tired of them.
3 albums in the last ten years and not one produced a hit single or went gold.
R.E.M. could have been smart and reborn. I think getting kicked in the ass by going indie again could have re-inspired them.
But the greed apparently was too much and going back to a small label too much of a step-down.
It's no great loss, in the end, they haven't mattered since 1987.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"