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R.E.M. (band)

From Academic Kids

R.E.M. is a rock band formed in Athens, Georgia in early 1980 by Michael Stipe (vocals), Bill Berry (drums), Peter Buck (guitar), and Mike Mills (bass). Throughout the 1980s, while signed to the independent label I.R.S., they achieved a growing cult status due mainly to Stipe's obscure lyrics and the band's sound, most noticeably influenced by the jangly, arpeggio-driven melodies of The Byrds. While there was little innovation in the band's approach to music, its politics, aesthetics, and hardworking ethos -- largely inspired by the early punk and art rock of the 1970s -- enabled the group to quickly establish itself as one of the pillars of the U.S.'s burgeoning alternative rock scene. By the early 1990s, R.E.M. was one of the world's most popular, respected, and influential bands.

Contents

History

The I.R.S. Years (1982-1987)

Their debut EP, Chronic Town (1982), illustrated R.E.M.'s signature musical style: jangling guitars, chords played in arpeggio, murmured vocals, and lyrics that avoid the standard topics of popular music - love and relationships. Their debut album, Murmur (1983), is held to be one of the best records of the 1980s (#197 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time). The album is stylistically unified; the songs blend together. The jangling guitars, so prominent on Chronic Town, are used more sparingly. Mills' bass guitar carries much of the melody, and Stipe's lyrics are practically indecipherable, used to create a mood instead of a narrative. The mood is grey - "Rest assured this will not last, take a turn for the worst", "martyred, misconstrued", "Not everyone can carry the weight of the world", "lies and conversation, fear". The dark mood is broken by two brighter, more hopeful songs, "Sitting Still," and "Shaking Through", marked by the return of Buck's chiming arpeggios.

R.E.M.'s second album, Reckoning (1984), explored a variety of musical styles. Song topics include cold weather, a fairy tale of brothers with magical powers, a flood, and separation. The jangling guitars and rich vocal melodies obscure rather dark lyrics. The final song, "Little America," is written about driving through rural America ("another Greenville, another Magic Mart (http://www.magicmartstores.com/)"), and serves as a prelude to the Southern themes on the subsequent album. The song may seem political ("The consul a horse - Jefferson I think we're lost"); however, the song refers to the band's manager, Jefferson Holt, and not Thomas Jefferson or Jefferson Davis.

Fables of the Reconstruction (1985) explores the mythology of the southern United States. A celebration of an eccentric individual is the subject of no less than four songs on the album ("Maps and Legends," "Life and How to Live It," "Old Man Kensey," "Wendell Gee"). "Driver 8" is a song about the scenery surrounding railroad tracks. (Trains are a frequent topic of Southern music; they epitomize the freedom and promise of an escape from one's home environment). The source of the title of "Can't Get There from Here" is a curious phrase heard when asking directions in a rural area. "Kohoutek," their first song about a romantic relationship, compares the fizzled comet of 1973 to a fizzled romance. By the time this album was released, R.E.M. were critically acclaimed, and the video for "Can't Get There from Here" was played frequently on MTV. R.E.M. practically defined college rock by this time.

The next album, Lifes Rich Pageant (sic) (1986), takes its name from the Inspector Clouseau movie A Shot in the Dark ("You'll catch your death of cold!" "Yes, I probably will. But that's all part of life's rich pageant, you know."). The songs are upbeat, the tempo is fast; this is a fairly hard-rocking album. The lyrics were becoming both more intelligible and more direct, with political themes appearing more explicitly ("Begin the Begin," "Flowers of Guatemala," "Hyena"). "Cuyahoga" is about the river in Ohio that caught fire due to pollution. The 'hit' from the album, "Superman," was a cover song that did not appear on the original album cover. In many ways, this album marked the end of the first period in the band's history.

Document (1987) was their last album for the independent record label I.R.S., and provided their first major hit with "The One I Love", which reached No. 9 on the American pop charts. The song expresses a grim satisfaction over the end of an unhappy relationship, but was widely misinterpreted as a love song. "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" recalls the rapid-fire lyrical style of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and can be described as pre-apocalyptic.

Dead Letter Office (1987) was a collection of B-sides and outtakes. The collection includes three Velvet Underground covers, an Aerosmith cover, an uncommissioned commercial for a barbecue restaurant in Athens, and a boozy version of "King of the Road." (The Dead Letter Office CD includes Chronic Town). The album is described in the liner notes as "A little bit of uh-huh and a whole lot of oh-yeah." The band's early years are summarized in the compilation Eponymous, released in 1988. The compilation contains several alternative versions and mixes of songs.

Rock Superstars (1988-1996)

In 1988 R.E.M. signed to the major label Warner Brothers and released Green. This was the band's first time with heavy promotion, and they toured stadiums extensively in 1989. Some fans from the I.R.S. days complained that R.E.M. had become too commercial and that the quality of the music had decreased, but the band had now been brought to international attention. In 1990, most of R.E.M. recorded with Warren Zevon as the Hindu Love Gods.

Their next records, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992), were both international hits, despite the fact that R.E.M. did not tour for either album. These two critically acclaimed albums featured hit singles including "Losing My Religion", "Shiny Happy People", "Everybody Hurts", "Man on the Moon", "Nightswimming", and "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite". The videos for "Losing My Religion" and "Everybody Hurts" received heavy rotation on MTV. Out of Time also includes emotional, contemplative tracks such as "Belong," "Half A World Away," and "Country Feedback." On Automatic, the band developed a reserved, meditative sound that took them back to their roots, and the record's 15 million copies were sold in spite of such melancholy themes as death, suicide, and sexual jealousy.

The band's 1994 release, the grunge-influenced Monster, including "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?," proved to be a crossover hit and their best selling album to date, though many critics disliked the band's foray into glam rock. The album was followed by a massive tour during which drummer Bill Berry suffered a brain hemorrhage on stage, which would eventually lead to his leaving the band. While on this tour the band recorded the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), a long, roughly produced and decidedly bleak record which featured, in the seven-minute "Leave," perhaps the band's most intense song. Other notable tracks on that record include "E-Bow the Letter" (a collaboration with the legendary Patti Smith) and the western-themed rock of "Low Desert." The band re-signed with Warner Brothers in 1996 for the largest recording contract advance in history: 80 million dollars for 5 albums.

R.E.M. After Berry (1997-2003)

After Berry's departure, the band returned with Krautrock-influenced Up (1998), another long and reflective record, with the lead single "Daysleeper." Many tracks contained drum machines, and Peter Buck played little guitar. Their record sales in the United States were down considerably, though in Europe they stayed popular. 2001's Reveal, confirms the return to an even mellower songwriting approach, with songs such as "Imitation of Life," "All The Way To Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star)," and "She Just Wants To Be" although garnering only mixed reviews in the U.S.A. was critically feted in Britain, receiving generous praise from many popular music magazines including Uncut, Wired, NME and Q. Recent R.E.M. soundtrack appearances have found them revisiting some of their earliest material, hitherto available only on live bootlegs; their single, "Bad Day" (2003), was the prototype for "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," with some of the same lyrics.

With A New Drummer On Board (2004-)

In 2004, the band returned with Around the Sun, which once again met with generally only mild critical praise. For this record as well as for the following tour they hired a new full-time session and tour drummer Bill Rieflin: "Peter brought him in," says Stipe. "He thought he could pull us in a different direction, and Rieflin really responds to the singer, which is great." Singles from this album include "Leaving New York", "Aftermath" and "Electron Blue," which has been heavily played in Britain. R.E.M.'s Around the Sun World Tour is the first tour since the infamous Monster Tour that R.E.M. needed to cancel shows, on account of Mike Mills's intestinal adhesions from prior surgery, Bill Berry's brain aneurysm, and Michael Stipe's hernia operation.

In a recent interview, Peter Buck said that their next album would be very different from current R.E.M. Based on the single "I'm Gonna DJ", played live on the 2004-2005 world tour, it may be another rock album, which, if successful, could possibly lead to Warner resigning R.E.M. after the two albums left on their contract. In the same interview, Michael Stipe said he has lyrics to three new songs on his cell phone and one is almost complete and may be debuted live. Currently, there have been two songs played live supposedly on the next album, rumored for a 2006 release; "I'm Gonna D.J.", the catchy rocking song with multiple guitars, and "Weatherman", played once live and then stopped due to the 'lyrics not fitting the song'. R.E.M. is currently on a world tour with their new drummer; it will end in July 2005 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Trivia

  • The band members picked the name R.E.M. out of the dictionary. They liked the name because it was so ambiguous. They started out as Twisted Kites for the first show they played at a party, but, according to "It Crawled From the South," considered Negro Eyes, Slut Bank, and Cans of Piss before settling for R.E.M.
  • "Losing My Religion" may have been the biggest hit song that uses a mandolin as the main instrument.
  • The video for "Losing My Religion" was banned in Ireland due to its religious connotations.

Samples

Discography

Studio Albums

(14 Albums with 175 Tracks Total)

  1. Murmur (1983) #36 US
  2. Reckoning (1984) #29 US #91 UK
  3. Fables of the Reconstruction (1985) #28 US #35 UK
  4. Lifes Rich Pageant (1986) #21 US #43 UK
  5. Dead Letter Office (1987) #52 US #60 UK
  6. Document (1987) #10 US #28 UK
  7. Green (1988) #12 US #27 UK
  8. Out of Time (1991) #1 US #1 UK (UK-5x Platinum)(ww sales 13m)
  9. Automatic for the People (1992) #2 US #1 UK (UK-5x Platinum)(ww sales 18m)
  10. Monster (1994) #1 US #1 UK (US-4x platinum)(UK-3x Platinum)(ww sales 8m)
  11. New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996) #2 US #1 UK (ww sales 3m)
  12. Up (1998) #3 US #2 UK (ww sales 3m)(UK-Gold)
  13. Reveal (2001) #6 US #1 UK (UK-2x Platinum)(ww sales 4m)
  14. Around the Sun (2004) #13 US #1 UK (UK-1x Platinum)

Compilations


Hit Singles

See also

Best selling music artists - World's top selling music artists chart.

"It Crawled from the South" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0306807513/103-2353848-4841462?v=glance) by Marcus Gray, a well-researched, 560 page history of R.E.M., called by some fans "the R.E.M. bible".

External Links

Template:R.E.M.da:R.E.M. de:R.E.M. (Band) fr:R.E.M. it:R.E.M. (gruppo musicale) he:אר.אי.אם hu:R.E.M. nl:R.E.M. (band) no:R.E.M. pl:R.E.M. pt:R.E.M. (banda) fi:R.E.M. sv:R.E.M.

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