Sep 212011

Not to be a hater here…but I can’t think of any band breaking up I could care less about. I mean, have they even been relevant for the last few decades?

So to frame it as a discussion: Are there other bands who shoulda called it quits a lot earlier than they did? Or still should? I’ll start: The Stones. Break up already. Please.


  64 Responses to “REM, 15 years too late?”

  1. Has any band that’s lost its rock-solid drummer ever mattered again? I know nor everyone agrees, but XTC was never the same without Chambers.

  2. Wilco got more popular and acclaimed after replacing the traditional, hard-hitting Ken Coomer with the avant-friendly Glenn Kotche.

    Roxy Music did fine commercially without Paul Thompson. And artistically that era is not totally worthless.

    The Stones did alright when they replaced Hal Blaine/Bernard Purdie/Jimmy Miller with that Watts fellow.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    David Bowie should break up.

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Did I say David Bowie? I meant Lou Reed.

  5. misterioso

    Dude, where you been? Lou broke up years ago. Didn’t you hear that Metallic clip? Are you telling me that is someone who hasn’t broken up?

  6. (The) Eagles


  7. misterioso

    Can’t we drop all of this negativity and just come together in celebration of the fact that REM finally broke up?

  8. Happiness Stan

    This could very easily go down the route of “bands I have always hated and wished never existed in the first place”, but I’m guessing you’re looking for bands who were somewhere from reliably very good indeed to awesome once but then went to the dull side? Do bands who broke up and then got together again count? (I’m guessing only if they then produce a reasonably substantial body of new material?) How many original members does a band need to retain before it becomes nothing more than a cabaret act and probably no longer relevant to the conversation? (How many Isley Brothers are required to be quorate?) And is there anything wrong with cabaret acts as long as they don’t impinge on the serious collective rock consciousness?

    Assuming that’s what’s being asked my list would include:

    The Who (after they’d done Who’s Next)

    The Stranglers (they were already coasting when Hugh Cornwell left, and that was about thirty years ago!)

    The Beach Boys (about the time of Wild Honey?)

    And I really, really wish that Paul McCartney would retire.

    Another interesting question would be: Are there any bands who have been going for as long as or longer than REM who remain consistently vital and interesting? I would suggest The Fall (but see proviso about membership above).

  9. Another interesting question would be: Are there any bands who have been going for as long as or longer than REM who remain consistently vital and interesting?

    Yeah, this is a much more relevant point that watching the Bad Attitude Club pat themselves on the back for being dismissive about somebody. Who are R.E.M.’s peers? Does Elvis Costello count? If so, latter-day R.E.M. is brilliant when compared to the dungheap that is his recent discography. And at least they’d release one crappy album every five years instead of 11 in that timespan (plus re-re-reissues).

    Stan, The Fall might be the one band the Bad Attitude Club have even less nice things to say about than R.E.M.

    I’m trying to think of other possible R.E.M. peers who are still around. They Might Be Giants? I’m sure they won’t inspire any withering invective around here!

  10. Sorry, but I think the main point is: No band can really maintain a particular high level of quality for 15,20,25+ years. So what’s the big deal?

  11. tonyola

    The Who? You’d skip Quadrophenia and The Who By Numbers? Those are both fine albums, fully worthy of the Who legacy. The Who should have ended with the death of Keith Moon.

    As for Beach Boys, they remained at least somewhat relevant through Holland.

    As for bands that have remained vital and interesting, what about King Crimson? Though on hiatus (now seemingly permanent) since 2008, for four decades Fripp and the band always stuck to its principles of pushing boundaries and never grew soft or sold out.

  12. Leave it to RTH to point out obvious exceptions. Ha! I’m standing by my gross generalization.

  13. The big deal is that REM broke up and the BAC is throwing a little bash.

  14. misterioso

    Their last crappy album notwithstanding, I will stand with U2. Granted that nothing they’ve done in the past 20 years (and in light of how rarely they release anything that is not so many records) is as good as Achtung Baby, to my ears they have a solid 30-year record, have remained true to their ideals and vision, maintained high standards, and made many great and very good records. So.

  15. Happiness Stan

    Hi Tonyola, personally I can take or leave either Quadrophenia or Who by Numbers, but wouldn’t wish to deny them to those who enjoy them, I’d certainly draw a line with Moon’s passing, (which bears out MrM’s initial point about drummers). I don’t think I’ve made it as far as “Holland” in the BB’s oeuvre, I’ll check it out.

    I love “In The Court”, but don’t feel qualified to comment on King Crimson, they’re a band that I like the idea of (for the reasons you’ve stated) but have somehow not quite climbed on board with yet. I saw them on telly in the 80s and found Adrian Bellew so irritating to watch that I never really tried with them again. Which would be your choice for second and third albums to check out?

  16. Happiness Stan

    Hi Oats, I thought that The Fall might raise some issues (although it looks like I’ve got away with it so far – so I’ll start digging now), but then any band whose second album sounds as if it was recorded live in a toilet by a drunk with a cassette recorder – because it practically was – and starts with a belligerent Mancunian bellowing “the difference between us and you is that we have brains” were probably never aiming for the popular market.

    They’ve been making records for practically twice as long as Beefheart was, his probably being the only rock canon theirs can realistically be compared to, churn out great clunking riffs which wouldn’t have disgraced classic Stones, Zep or Sabbath, have still never made a record which sounds even slightly like anybody else, and have never, ever given a stuff whether anybody likes it or not. That’s real class in my book.

  17. BigSteve

    Red would be my recommendation.

  18. BigSteve

    I think a solo artist can remain creative over the long haul, with the proviso that there will be peaks and valleys over the course of decades. But I think it may be too much to ask of a group, especially one that starts in the members’ late teens/early 20s.

  19. cherguevara

    So, who is going to buy the Michael Stipe solo album?

  20. I always dreamed they would “return to form” — I did like the single “Leaving New York” off Around the Sun (an album they later threw under the bus), but as much as I loved them in the 1980s, I really don’t listen to anything after Green.

    Still, I’m a bit nostalgic. As a kid, I still remember the first time I heard them — some girls I knew were playing that first EP — it just stuck with me. Plus seeing them live at Navy Island in St. Paul before they they were in arenas was a highlight.

  21. sammymaudlin

    AC/DC after Back In Black

    Van Halen after Roth left

    That Kinks after or before (depending on my mood) Muswell Hillbillies

    Velvet Underground after Loaded (I’m not counting Live at Max’s)

    The Cars after Candy-O

    Pere Ubu after Dub Housing

    Captain Beefheart after Safe As Milk

    Stone Temple Pilots before they started

  22. One of the first hipster jokes I ever heard was “Did you hear Lou Reed is getting back together?”

  23. Waiting until Keith died means we’d have to include the sonic turd that is Who Are You.

  24. I’m not the biggest fan of the Fall, but haven’t they been pretty consistent over the years? Isn’t their stuff always kind of tough to take with intermittent flashes of brilliance?

  25. Tom Waits is still interesting and relevant and he’s been doing it about 12 years longer than REM.

  26. What’s the line from “Like a Rolling Stone,” “You ain’t got nothing when you’ve got nothing to lose”?

  27. hrrundivbakshi

    Post of the week!

  28. tonyola

    Red is a good one. So are Starless and Bible Black and Thrak.

  29. tonyola

    But the Who ending much sooner would have denied us the great The Kids Are Alright film.

  30. BigSteve

    I may be one of the biggest REM advocates around these parts, but I think this was a wise decision. At least they never went down the “play an album in its entirety” route.

  31. trigmogigmo

    I think his cardiologist told him that back in 2004.

  32. trigmogigmo

    Definitely never the same, and certainly lacking a distinctive XTC drum sound. I do think I like the pre- and post-Chambers catalogs equally, however.

  33. Happiness Stan

    “But the Who ending much sooner would have denied us the great The Kids Are Alright film.”

    ok Tony, you’ve got me there…

  34. Happiness Stan

    Would Pere Ubu have made it as far as “Dub Housing” without “Strictly Personal” or “Mirror Man”? Every time I listen to “20 Seconds over Tokyo” I can hear “Tarotplane” playing along in the background.

  35. Pere Ubu is heavily influenced by Beefheart, I think. And by the way, the album after Dub Housing (just blanked on the title) doesn’t have the “hits,” but it’s a strong album in its own right.

  36. True, I cut up on the band – and more than anything my bad attitude about them – but they seem to be going out like pros. I can’t imagine being at their point in their music career. Like so many things they’ve experienced I wish I could have experienced the point when such a decision needs to be made. It will be interesting to see what Mills does next. Buck has had his own things going for 15 years or longer. You know Stipe will do something grand, like start a doo-wop group with Bono and Eddie Vedder.

  37. machinery

    20 bucks says they reunite in under 5 years. Either for a big benefit concert for some yet-happened disaster (which would be a noble reason) or because they’re bored.

  38. shawnkilroy

    i thought Marky Ramone was a good, solid replacement for Tommy Ramone, but i’m hard pressed to find another such example.

  39. I’m with you except I would extend the Cars through Panorama. They became dead to me with Shake It UP.

  40. Happiness Stan

    To carry a thought over from the post punk thread, Budgie was much better than Kenny Morris who he replaced in the Banshees while they were riding high with their second album, (he was better than Palm Olive who he replaced in the Slits too). That’s the only one I can think of.

  41. I agree. Panorama is pretty fine even though (and maybe because) it’s a little darker and less hit-laden than the previous albums.

  42. Granted I’ve not dug deep into their catalog but I just don’t get the appeal of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Seem like all pose and no substance to me.

  43. Happiness Stan

    apart from Spinal Tap, obviously…

  44. tonyola

    I didn’t start exploring the Siouxsie output for a long time, but I’ve found their music to be interesting and sometimes pretty great. It’s not every band that can do a more-than-credible cover of a Beatles tune, and their version of “Dear Prudence” is quite charming.

  45. BigSteve

    Yeah I don’t get it either.

  46. hrrundivbakshi

    What’s interesting is that this “we’re breaking up” announcement just shows how out of touch the band had become. I mean, not to sound snarky or anything, but NOBODY had been following this band for the last 15 years. So, uh, why bother breaking up? They must have done it to satisfy some band urge that nobody else in the world was dealing with. Much better, I think, to keep a “band” together and do nothing at all for the *next* 15 years, a la Kinks. I mean, why not? What’s to be gained — assuming there’s no animosity — from “breaking up”?

    I guess Machinery’s cynical reunion tour barb is what one gains. More ticket sales! More asses in seats!

    I think it’s safe to say I would have NO interest in any REM solo projects. Except maybe a spoken word album by Bill Berry. Like “Uncle Berry Reads ‘Horton Hears a Who.'” That would probably rock harder than anything the band has recorded in 30 years.


  47. Happiness Stan

    Along with everyone else here I’d agree that it all felt a bit ‘so what’, but I doubt they’ve done it to line up a reunion tour, they could fill anywhere in the world without breaking up, and even though they haven’t been interesting for a long, long time, they’ve still been dull with integrity.

    I do hope that Peter Buck does some more Venus 3 stuff with Robyn Hitchcock.

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see Stipe emerging with a critically acclaimed but completely impenetrable novel, it would be even better if Mills came up with one, though.

  48. Not to be “snarky” but if you don’t like them, that’s one thing, but if you’re really dismissing 30 years of their career, does that mean you liked the Chronic Town EP and they should have hung it up? Or you really just don’t like anything they did?

  49. BigSteve

    Well they just released an album six months ago, and it got the usual “their best album since Document” reviews and lots of press, because the people who are in positions of power in the press right now are the right age to have been REM fans. They didn’t tour to promote Collapse Into Now though, which in today’s music business probably means they didn’t make any money. I would guess that their recent string of reissues have sold more than any of their last four albums.

    So I think the announcement is just to say they’re getting off the treadmill because it’s no longer of any use to them. Even a message of “buy the reissues because there won’t be any more new stuff” doesn’t make sense, because not many people were buying the new stuff anyway. Collapse Intio Now got to #5 on the Billboard album charts, but as you know that can translate into a shockingly small number of sales.

  50. tonyola

    You kind of have to look past Siouxsie’s gothy-freaky image. Most of the Banshee’s music past their punk period isn’t doomy-gloomy at all – quirky dance-pop, angular power-pop, and lush, dreamy atmospherics. Siouxsie is also a distinctive and capable singer. I avoided SATB for a long time, but in recent years have listened to their catalog – a lot of impressive stuff.

  51. tonyola

    So will Michael Stipe hook up with Metallica now? I’ll tell you what my jump-the-shark moment was with REM, and that’s “Everybody Hurts” – both the song and the video.

  52. hrrundivbakshi

    Well, yeah. I liked big chunks of “Murmur,” and I pretty much thought everything that came afterwards was either a poor-quality retread of that, or a deeply misguided attempt at donning a new rock costume.

    Not all of those ideas were as bad as this one, but this pretty much crystallizes what sucked so deeply about that band after the first album:

  53. tonyola

    A warning about exploring later Crimson – don’t expect it to be much like In the Court. Most of their work starting with Lark’s Tongue in Aspic can get pretty harsh and out there, even when interspersed with moments of great beauty. Sure, they’ve always thrown in some tuneful ballads, but those are just brief respites from the harder stuff.

  54. sammymaudlin

    I really dig the Venus 3 stuff and actually like it much better than much of HItchcock’s solo stuff.

  55. Long past the time when they should have quit. They’ve got nothing after Automatic for the People, but, REM breaking up is actually news outside the rock nerd world, so the announcement got some attention and might boost their catalog.

  56. I would like to step in to say that Collapse into Now was a pretty good effort. Actually enjoy it, wish I could say that for their previous 5 or so albums. REM were Gods in my youth, It’s nice to see them go now rather than dragging on into the dirt.

    Would have to say I need to see Yes hang it up. as well as Kiss, and I hate to say it, although eagerly awaiting the upcoming effort with fingers crossed, Aerosmith has not impressed me in a very long time.

  57. misterioso

    hogdog, c’mon. Get off Aerosmith’s case already. They were impressive as recently as 1976.

  58. tonyola

    Now that’s not nice. Look at what all those song doctors and session people did for Aerosmith in the late ’80s and ’90s. Those people have to eat too, and if your own group can no longer cut it, why not hire the best?

  59. 2000 Man

    They’ll probably have a big career spanning boxed set coming soon, and I think “Dull With Integrity” would be a perfect name for it.

  60. mockcarr

    Generally, I don’t think bands should last longer than sitcoms.

    I liked one their recent singles a lot, and it sill didn’t make me buy it. Maybe I’m the kind of fellow who made them break up.

  61. Kudos to RTH. 64 comments on the REM breakup and nobody was trite enough to use some variation on “end of the world as we know it”.

    Better than TV news shows. Can’t remember now whether it was on Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert last night but one of them ran a collage of 6-8 clips from the various networks on the breakup and everyone had some lame variation of “end of the world” to be “hip”.

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