Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rapid Eye Movement

Today marks the release of album number 15 (apart from all the compilation and live releases) in the heralded repertoire of rock greats, R.E.M. - Accelerate. Remarkably, it's been 25 years since Murmur introduced us to Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry (who is no longer with the band, having retired in 1997 - that's right, they've been around so long that one of their band members has RETIRED). Since that 1983 debut, R.E.M. has been arguably the most influential American rock band of the past three decades, almost single-handedly inventing the genre known as Alternative. They altered both the way musicians made music, and the way the rest of us listened to it, instilling a wisdom and frailty to rock that simply didn't exist at that point in time.

Just look at some of the top singles...
"It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"
"Losing My Religion"
"The One I Love"
"Man on the Moon"
"Orange Crush"
"Radio Free Europe"
"Driver 8"
"The Great Beyond"

...or the list of bands R.E.M. has influenced (Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Pavement, Wilco - not to mention all of the bands that have since been influenced by those five) and history speaks for itself.

What is amazing is that it's now 2008 and R.E.M. is still making relevant and modern music. Even MORE amazing is this hypothetical: let's say that you are a modern day music fan but had never before heard R.E.M. (suspend your disbelief for a second). If you were listen to any number of their tracks - listed above or otherwise - you would just as easily assume they were recorded in the last five years as opposed to the last 25 years. They are still somehow relevant and modern in 2008. And these are songs from the 80s! Music from the 80s is in a genre completely unto itself because the rest of pop music made in the decade is so easily recognizable as something that could have only come from the 80s. R.E.M. exists out of time (oh, and they have an album called Out of Time, so maybe there's something interesting there).

From 1985, "Driver 8"

From 1987, "Finest Worksong"

Then from 1992, "Drive"

And now from 2008, their first single from Accelerate, "Supernatural Superserious":

Where their peers, U2 or Red Hot Chili Peppers, got stuck in the 2000s making essentially the same record over and over again, R.E.M. continues to give us something new. Enjoy.


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