In a post on their website, the band members wrote, "To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."
Starting with their 1982 EP Chronic Town, the band (which started out as a quartet) helped give birth to the so-called "college rock" sound of the 1980s, bringing together the outsider spirit of punk and new wave but merging it with classic guitar rock reminiscent of groups like the Byrds. Frontman Michael Stipe's cryptic, mumbled vocals and guitarist Peter Buck's jangly chords helped give the group an immediate sonic blueprint they explored for the next several decades, eventually jumping to the major label Warner Bros. for their 1988 record Green.
The band's original lineup faced its first shakeup when longtime drummer Bill Berry left the group in late 1997. R.E.M. continued on as a trio (with bassist Mike Mills), producing albums that weren't as critically acclaimed or popular. These records (including Up and Around the Sun) found the band experimenting with their sound and incorporating more electronic tones. The band's 2008 record Accelerate was seen as a return to form, with the group diving back into the guitar-oriented approach of their earlier work. Their most recent album was this year's Collapse Into Now.
By any reasonable measure, R.E.M.'s legacy on alternative and indie rock is immense. An inspiration to groups like Nirvana, R.E.M. fought the good fight, believing that intelligent, personal songs could find a place in the mainstream music industry. Politically outspoken, the band members wrote about everything from American foreign policy to suicide. They leave behind a wealth of indelible songs and several classic albums, including Murmur, Document and Automatic for the People. Thanks for a lifetime of great music, guys. I'm sure I'm not the only person whose life you changed.
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