Today is a pretty momentous anniversary in the annals of rock music, as 20 years ago Nirvana’s Nevermind album was released. Its subsequent explosion–led by lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit”–is largely credited with ushering in the era of alternative music.
But the big music story of this week had to do with a band that was “alternative” for a decade before Nevermind came along. On Wednesday, R.E.M.–one of my favorite bands of all-time and a rung above Nirvana on this list of such–announced that they had “decided to call it a day” after 31 years.
After the announcement, many of the rock pundits who weighed in seemed to suggest that Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills were somehow foolish for not having called it quits after drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997. In this tribute post on my Seth Saith blog–which includes 20 video clips of my favorite R.E.M. songs, all pre-1996–I agreed that in sum R.E.M.’s musical output wasn’t as stellar post-Berry, but in no way were they somehow obligated to have walked away before the remaining threesome was good and ready.
You would be hard-pressed to name any rock artists whose best music came more than 16 years after their origin, and I think R.E.M. should be commended for continuing to do what they loved even if they never were quite as great as they once were. I saw them live 6 times since 1999 and was never disappointed, and even if their very best songs were produced in the first half of their glorious run, below are 11 examples that prove they were still capable of creating quality music.
(Note: The last video is a compilation of all 11, so you can just hear the music by letting it run sequentially)
This is the compilation video of all the preceding clips: