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R.E.M.

After over three decades, R.E.M. announced it was breaking up a couple of weeks ago. So during this episode Jim and Greg look back at its career highlights and lowlights, and discuss its legacy in the years to come. R.E.M., along with U2, is unique among bands from the indie rock '80s. It not only achieved career longevity, but, for better or worse, skyrocketed to arena status. Jim and Greg also have a unique relationship with the Athens, GA musicians. Both remember covering the band as mere fanzine writers, maturing as critics the same time R.E.M. was as a band.

Greg talks in-depth about R.E.M.'s I.R.S. years with landmark albums like Murmur and Fables of the Reconstruction. His favorite track from this 1st era is "Pretty Persuasion" from Reckoning in 1983. Jim goes on to discuss its transition to a major label. Their Warner releases Green, Out of Time and Automatic for the People didn't let their loyal fans down. But, things fell off after that. Greg makes an argument for New Adventures in Hi-Fi from 1996, and both critics agree that drummer Bill Berry's departure marked a great loss in terms of sound and connection. But when it comes to R.E.M.'s legacy, they're sure new generations of listeners will focus on the good years, rather than the bad. And its model of building grassroots fans that transitioned with them from label to label, club to arena is one new indie bands would be wise to follow.

Go to episode 306
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AccelerateAccelerate available on iTunes

R.E.M. Accelerate

One of the most buzzed about events at the festival was the debut of songs from R.E.M.'s new album Accelerate. The band played its first show at SXSW, as well as Austin City Limits. (You can hear their live performance of "Fall On Me" during the show.) Jim and Greg both saw the rock veterans perform and have listened to the new album. So what's the verdict? Jim's feelings are mixed. R.E.M. is a band that has meant a lot to him in the early part of their career, but has disappointed him in the past decade. They've never reached the peaks they did with albums like Life's Rich Pageant, Murmur and Automatic for the People. He thought the ACL live show was better than recent tours, but not amazing. And the same can be said of Accelerate. They've returned to their roots, but not to form, and Jim can only give it a Try It. Greg was actually pleasantly surprised to hear the band re-invested again-for the first time since losing drummer Bill Berry. That was an incredible loss for the other three members, and Accelerate is the first album in years that can stand up to their earlier work, according to Greg. He hears a renewed urgency in Michael Stipe's voice and the emphasis placed once again on Peter Buck's guitar. Greg gives Accelerate a Buy It.

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Go to episode 121