After 31 years in the business and 15 albums, R.E.M., the Southern rock band hailing from Athens, Ga., announced Wednesday morning on its website that it is calling it quits. In a brief statement, the band writes:
"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."
Following the brief statement are individidual sentiments from the three original band members, Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe (original drummer Bill Berry had exited the band some time ago, replaced by Bill Rieflin).
"We feel kind of like pioneers in this -- there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off," Mills writes. "We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right."
In other words, it's the end of the band as they know it, and they feel fine. But a piece in Rolling Stone does state, with an interview from Ethan Kaplan, owner of the R.E.M. fan community Murmurs and former senior vice president of emerging technology at Warner Bros. Records, that the band's decision was influenced by label politics.
"I suspected this was coming last fall," Kaplan tells Rolling Stone. "If you remember, they weathered a lot of storms in this business, and have always operated on their own terms. [Warner Bros.] changed starting last September, and I think the demands on a band now to get a record out were more than they might have wanted to commit. I can understand that after how hard they worked for how long, the thought of going back to 'paying dues' with new label staff, in a very weird industry, was too much."
R.E.M. released "Collapse Into Now" earlier this year to complimentary reviews. "The band doesn't engage in any current trends," Ann Powers wrote in her review for the L.A. Times. "Instead it returns to form, in detail, moving through the R.E.M. cookbook with the focus and precision of an Iron Chef."
Nearly synonymous with the phrase "jangly guitars," R.E.M. helped forge the jangle pop movement of the mid-'80s, a sound that braided together Byrds-style '60s pop and power pop's raw energy with folky overtones. Their influence has been charted far and wide, from Pavement to Wilco to the Athens-associated Elephant 6 collective to, most recently, the Decemberists, who collaborated with Buck on their celebrated album released earlier this year, "The King Is Dead."
No word yet on what any of the band members will do next but Pop & Hiss will keep you posted as we get news. In the meantime, check out R.E.M.'s 1983 TV performance of "Radio Free Europe," which David Letterman announces as their national TV debut. Holdng up a copy of "Murmur," Letterman also says, "The Los Angeles Times just named this album one of the five best released so far in 1983." R.E.M., we still feel the same way.