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Where Were You When REM Broke UP?

I have to admit I was pretty surprised to see that REM is calling it a day. They’ve been a an active band about as long as I’ve been alive. I kinda took them for granted. They’ve been indie rock’s work horses. Most of the last 15 years or so they’ve been quietly cranking out what appears to be solid hyphen-rock (indie? alternative?), touring occasionally, and just seemingly punching the clock every day as indie rock founding fathers. Why would they break up? You never hear any drama about them. I can’t imagine Michael Stype beating up a paparazzi or anything.

Maybe that’s the reason I could never get into them. They’re a band that you have to respect, but I’ve always found it hard to love them. Mostly, I didn’t seem them giving me a reason to.

I was too young to really get into the music when they were at the height of their powers. I didn’t have an older brother, but if I did I would imagine him listing to REM in mind 80’s. While I was still listening to Sesame Street songs, they were paying their dues, chiming up college rock and being decidedly NOT Whitesnake or Poison. Maybe they were so afraid of falling into those excesses, they erred on the side of, well, boring.

By the time the 90’s came around and my tastes had grown up a bit. I was spending a lot of time listening to The Beatles, and felt like I found my niche. If I had explored a little more I might have found that they were trying really hard to be a sort of Beatles themselves. They had the rare ability to be classicist and still look like they’re innovators.

We’re talking about 4 guys that really did write some good songs and play some great live shows. But they also seemed like they were afraid of ever hitting any real heights. Every REM single was pleasant, enjoyable, arty in a non-threatening manner. These guys should be commended for sticking it out and continuing to churn out that seemed to mostly be reminders normal folk can make some good music themselves.

So tomorrow morning, for the first time in a long time, they’re going get up and not have to punch in to rock and roll. Whatever else they have planned, I wish them luck.

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