Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Living in a post-REM world

You can just type "REM break up" in the search engine of your choice and get the official scoop on the best from Athens (which is saying a lot), who are now calling it a day.

I can certainly understand the reasons for this. They've made multiple impressions on the musical world over the past 30 years and their legacy is in tact; they've earned their honest millions and can retire in comfort; and last year's Collapse into Now was a definite high note to go out on, encapsulating not only the various elements of the classic REM sound, but still continuing to explore fresh territories that are ever interesting and exciting. Plus, Peter has about a million other guitar commitments. ;-)

So it's all good, right?

I've got 15 albums of mostly fantastic music to either lean on or simply enjoy in the future as I have in the past, and while I may greedily want more and more new music, I don't necessarily need it. No good thing lasts forever, kids.

But that's all foundational history, and like the work of the Beatles and The Doors have lived on, REM will as well in the exact same way. But I was never around for the Beatles and the Doors when they existed, that was someone else's loss, the shock of another generation. So for me personally (and millions of other 30/40 somethings), I honestly can't imagine a world without REM as some sort of functional entity, as they've been a part of my life for longer than they haven't, which is longer than any friends I currently have. That thought right there sorta shakes me, because under the same idea, in another 30 years time I could have none of the friends I do now, but still have REM's music.

And while we've had our (one-sided) ups and downs, and for awhile there in the mid 90s I denied them like Peter to Christ, like any personable, meaningful, heartfelt relationship, there will be times of appreciation and ingratitude, an emotional feast or famine, but in the end you always come back to what is true and good and wholesome, and 100% of the time (even with the clunkers), that has been REM.

But even though good friendships far too often drift apart and fade away, it's the memories that will sustain us until the next meeting, or at least keep us smiling fondly when we know we'll likely never see old Bob again. And with music it's a bit easier to put on a disc and for a moment recapture that feeling you had when you were 16 and hearing Wolves, Lower for the first time, the excitement you felt and the friends you shared it with, which is rather a win-win, 'cos not only does it rekindle the love you have for that music, but it also conjures a warm feeling of nostalgia for folks who are God knows anywhere, but hopefully doing ok.

(Ah, the pangs of growing older in a linear existence.)

That's the beauty and power of music, and few were any better at evoking that power than REM.

So, Michael, Peter, Mike and Bill, thank you, thank you, THANK have been here, and you are everything.


Anonymous said...

William, can I share this on my FB page? You certainly encapsulate some of my feelings about this turn of events here. Thanks.


William said...

I'd be honored. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, the sharing has been done!

Anonymous said...

What a great band. I didn't get into them till the Warner days, but REM (like the Velvet Underground) is a band that made a bunch of dudes really want to play music and not just listen to it.

Their influence is unfathomable.

Through it all they were gracious and humble. They were so quick to champion the music of small bands (like a group of Oxford dropouts named Radiohead)or get involved politically in an honest way.

America just lost it's greatest active band. Sad to see them go.