Michael Edler at Pop Matters has finally broken up with R.E.M. Its over. In an amusing, deliberately provotive piece, Edler sums up why the beautiful memories of the past don’t substitute for a meaningful present:
Don’t get me wrong: R.E.M. is the most important American band since 1980. No band has the influence on American music like R.E.M. Even Saint Cobain admitted that he loved what R.E.M. stood for in his life and, like Kurt Cobain, I believed in the ideals that this band adhered to in their career. But a simple check through the back catalogue of R.E.M. albums before 1994’s Monster displays a greatness that has been left behind.
And of Accelerate, their much hyped (and widely admired) return to form:
I know you are trying real hard and feel each album is a new venture into your maturing sound-scapes of a career, but really. Stop it. You’re no good to me and you’re hurting yourself.”
That R.E.M. is best 20 years ago is clear. (R.E.M. lost me with Automatic for the People and with the utterly melodramatic drivel of songs like Everybody Hurts.) But to say there is nothing worth hearing? I’d argue till the end of time that Bad Day stands alongside their best work. I miss that Michael Stipe mumble that went into the bin alongside the IRS contract, I miss too the sense of innovation, and I’d argue that Accellerateisn’t at all bad but has a kind of sadness to it given that what clearly is going on is an attempt to return to the sound that made them interesting. Being derivitative of yourself is perhaps the opposite of innovation, but it is not the same thing as dull.