R.E.M.'s long pilgrimage comes to an end

The Athens band announces a split

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R.E.M.
City Paper managing editor Chris Haire lobbed an unexpected piece of news into the music room this afternoon: a link to an NPR post reporting the amicable breakup of long-running, Athens, Ga.-based alternative rock band R.E.M.

According to the piece, the band — singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills — posted an official announcement on its website today.

“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.” — R.E.M.

R.E.M. formed as a quartet in Athens in 1980 with Bill Berry handling the drums alongside Stipe, Buck, and Mills. After touring the Southeast for two years, the band signed with I.R.S. Records and made a splash in 1982 with the EP Chronic Town. They scored great successes on college radio with their 1983 debut full-length album Murmur and the 1984 follow-up Reckoning. By the time major labels took an interest in R.E.M., the band had a strong reputation as a smart, Southern-tinged, slightly bohemian power-pop act. Warner Bros. signed the band in 1987 and released Green in the fall of 1988.

Berry left the band in late 1997. After the released of 1998’s Up, the rest of the band pressed ahead as a trio with a rotation of auxiliary players. The contributions from two key collaborators — guitarist Scott McCaughey and drummer Bill Rieflin — enhanced the creative mix in recent years.

R.E.M.’s final release was Collapse Into Now (their 15th studio album), which came out last March.

Additional statements from the three bandmates hit the band’s website this afternoon. Mills posted: “During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, ‘What next?’ Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

Stipe added, “A wise man once said, ‘The skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it. I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.”

Buck stated, “One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.”

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