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Old 09-20-2008, 02:37 PM   #16
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Yes, I love R.E.M. and have for many a year. Those of you who came of age in the Pop era may not be aware of how big R.E.M. was in 1991 to 1995, when they basically ruled the world. Their first top ten hit was "The One I Love" from 1987's Document (their 5th album -- it also took U2 5 albums to have a top-ten US hit), and then their contract with the independent IRS records ran out and they signed with Warner Brothers. Some hardcore fans have never forgiven them for that (which is ridiculous). Still, there was something very special about a band as commercially accessible and with as much integrity as R.E.M. being on a tiny label, and cranking out quality albums every year back in 80s America. That IRS period is still revered, and there are good compilations available that focus on that period exclusively.

In 1988, Green came out and was followed by a major world tour, at which point the band started getting really big, and not only in the USA. Green rocked a bit, but was starting to sound more 'folksy' and pop-friendly, and when they decided (for the first time) not to tour after their next album, and to play some new, folk-inspired instruments while keeping things largely acoustic, they expected to have a fall-off in popularity. Instead, Out of Time (1991) ate the world after "Losing My Religion", a tune with an obscure lyric and a mandolin as lead instrument, climbed up the world's charts.

At this point, a funny thing happened. The US college-scene, which R.E.M. had always been part of, morphed (and commercialized) into the Alternative Rock aesthetic, which continued to embrace them. Partly as a result of this, Out of Time went to #1 on the album charts while the band were sitting at home, relaxing. They then produced their softest, most melancholy work yet, Automatic For The People (1992), at the height of Grunge, and it sailed to #1. (It did the same in the UK, where it was one of the albums of the decade; they have also been extremely popular in Germany and across Europe). Again, the band didn't tour it, and again it exceeded all sales expectations.

In retrospect, Bill Berry was probably was probably unhappy with these musical trends (the word was he told the guys, "If the next album doesn't rock, I'm outta here!"). Needing to tour again, the group got very self-conscious and made Monster (1994), which was another huge chart-topping hit, but seemed a bit strained and self-consciously trying to be loud and cool. The tour was on a big scale, and had some unexpected setbacks.

At that point, they were easily the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd biggest group in the world, and they got a new contract with Warners, for incredibly huge sums. Since then, they've been less prolific, more "corporate" in career trends and decisions, less complete since Bill Berry quit, and generally less successful -- especially in their home country. Bill Berry, by the way, was not just a drummer, but also a great composer and arranger -- he was the main composer of songs like "Everybody Hurts", one of their biggest hits. And yeah, he probably helped them rock a bit more.

Compared to U2, R.E.M. seemed not to crave or work for massive success so much. When The Joshua Tree brought U2 into the homes of middle-class housewives and Jr. High school kids, the guys seemed ready for it and so firmly grounded that they could handle the incredible success -- it was like they were born to be icons. R.E.M., on the other hand, often made conscious decisions in the 80s to not get bigger (not lip synching in videos, dressing strangely, et al). After they signed with Warners, I think they thought that they'd go a bit more commercial with Green and its tour, and then kind of relax and slow down. I think they had no idea that the whole thing would get bigger and bigger after they stopped touring, and that they would suddenly rival U2 in popularity. When all that happened, I think it put some strains on the group that it never completely resoved. At one point, Peter Buck's marriage collapsed and he spent months, alone, wandering around Mexican small towns. Bill Berry became a nervous wreck and couldn't handle gigging anymore, and quit. His style of working (esp. in the studio) had been more in sync with Buck, who then became a bit isolated and felt ganged up on by Mills and Stipe. The group almost broke up over these issues in 1999.

Basically, the R.E.M. guys are modest, Southern gentlemen, and the U2 guys are high-energy global diplomats, always ready for a night on the town.
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Old 09-20-2008, 03:32 PM   #17
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Honestly, I always found REM kind of annoying. And once they got real big, they came off as somewhat pretentious and I think that turned off a lot of people - at least that was the general feeling amongst my friends. Plus Shiny Happy People and Everybody Hurts are two of the most annoying songs I've ever heard.
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Old 09-20-2008, 04:06 PM   #18
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R.E.M. pisses on U2.
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Old 09-20-2008, 09:57 PM   #19
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Honestly, I always found REM kind of annoying. And once they got real big, they came off as somewhat pretentious and I think that turned off a lot of people - at least that was the general feeling amongst my friends. Plus Shiny Happy People and Everybody Hurts are two of the most annoying songs I've ever heard.
Well, naming two songs in a 25-year career as justification for their being "annoying" isn't going to convince anyone. And you can't seriously charge another band with being "pretentious" on a U2-site??

I agree, by the way, that "Everybody Hurts" is not one of their finer moments (the same chord-progression, more-or-less, was recycled for the vastly superior "Strange Currencies" on Monster), but I've never understand the seemingly universal hatred of "Shiny Happy People", which I think is great, rollicking, uplifting pop song. Very nice harmonies and counter-harmonies on there. It's certainly no less "pop" than half of the Green album, which nobody seems to have a problem with.
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Old 09-20-2008, 10:16 PM   #20
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Well, naming two songs in a 25-year career as justification for their being "annoying" isn't going to convince anyone. And you can't seriously charge another band with being "pretentious" on a U2-site??
I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. If one band comes out with not one but two songs I can't stand, that's no going to bode well for them. And U2s level of pretension in no way negatively impacts REMs pretension.
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Old 09-21-2008, 12:33 AM   #21
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For the record, I am a R.E.M. fan, and even I find Everybody Hurts extremely whiny and cloying. It's more enjoyable in its proper context on Automatic For The People, but only marginally so.
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Old 09-21-2008, 01:14 AM   #22
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For the record, I am a R.E.M. fan, and even I find Everybody Hurts extremely whiny and cloying. It's more enjoyable in its proper context on Automatic For The People, but only marginally so.
Yes. This.

And I thought the video was pretty great.
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Old 09-21-2008, 02:09 AM   #23
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R.E.M. pisses on U2.

I know you are not correct
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Old 09-21-2008, 03:33 AM   #24
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I've got a few of their albums and many of their songs move me to tears. Overall though I could never really get into REM beyond casual interest. To me their music has this overly tasteful sheen to it, even when they rock out, that starts to bore me after a while.
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Old 09-21-2008, 03:42 AM   #25
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I'd love to see R.E.M. play with U2...R.E.M. is my second favorite band...I think R.E.M. might be in there prime live nowadays, even though I don't think Accelerate is amongst their best records....their setlists are always changing and Stipe sounds fucking awesome....I saw them at Hollywood Bowl at the beginning of the tour, hopefully I can see them again

oh also...I think their drummer now is the best substitute for Bill they are ever going to have...he rocks...
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Old 09-21-2008, 04:16 AM   #26
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Nothing drastic happened to REM. They did struggle a bit after Bill Berry left. Some of those songs were a little bit like treading water. The world got bored of them and their fan base shrunk. But they are still a fantastic live band.
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Old 09-21-2008, 04:24 AM   #27
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I actually felt that metallica took a down with the last record they did, just wait for the next.......... REM, well................this could have been the band after U2 in terms of rock monsters and evergreen boys, but I think they kinda lost themselves somewhere, they're turning always the same music, never different arrangements or some new directions. I mean, I have listened to them a lot in the past, I felt in love with them especially after Monster, but now I'm almost refusing them as musicians........many Rem fan out there would surely take reasons for saying they're still a top band, but for me personnally, they should retire.............or do a record every 5 years, like someone else does.......
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Old 09-21-2008, 04:27 AM   #28
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65980, great post.

they're a band i keep meaning to get into more, having a few of their albums and such. i really need to hear more of them, as i've liked everything i've heard. yes, even shiny happy people and everybody hurts.
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Old 09-21-2008, 04:42 AM   #29
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I know you are not correct
Excuse me. How do you know this?
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Old 09-21-2008, 05:18 AM   #30
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65980, you've written a great post, I can see how much you care about this band just reading it, and I think you might be right asserting REM weren't the kind of guys to go for "the greatest band" title while U2 members are.
I totally believe your picture of REM's work in the 90's in your side of the world, but, believe me, in my little corner it was very different, they had some hits in the late 80's and they reached the first places in charts in the 90's, but not very often and not for very long, they have their fans, of course, but they aren't too many.
I don't know if, like you seem to think, it's been a deliberate decision to remain small, or there are other factors, I find Michael's vocal style and voice, which is very personal and recognisable, not very adaptable to different kinds of melodies, I find the band work a little stuck, that's why even if I like them, I wouldn't say I'm one of their fans.
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