Several years ago (damn I’ve been doing this blog a long time) I posted a list of some of the biggest artists in music and confessed that I had not bothered to check them out beyond knowing some of their biggest hits. Last weekend I checked out several episodes of the 2007 BBC series Seven Ages of Rock on VH1 Classic, and got caught up in the one covering alternative rock. It covered bands like Nirvana and the Pixies, whom I’ve already auditioned and found wanting. Another band heavily featured in the episode was R.E.M.
And you know, the fact is I have never really given them a proper chance. I know how important they supposedly are in the world of alternative rock and of course I’m very familiar with their biggest hits, but as I was never all that much into alt rock I had little reason to familiarize myself with one of the genre’s standard bearers. I also figured that after a certain point it was simply too late to try.
I’ve long been a believer that with some aspects of pop culture, be it music, TV, or movies, if you’re not a fan by a certain point in your life then you just missed the boat and that’s all there is to it. I’m quite a few years removed from my high school/college days, when I assume most R.E.M. fans developed their bond with the group, and I can’t pretend to still have that mindset.
Still, their story intrigued me and I gained an appreciation for the band throughout the episode. Michael Stipe made a few statements in particular that I enjoyed, where he basically copped to enjoying the much bigger stage that commercial success gave R.E.M. Unlike a lot of Stipe’s mopey alt rock brethren, he didn’t feel the need to act all oppressed and sad over the fact that he was in a popular band. I dig that kind of honesty.
So in the spirit of open-mindedness I’ve decided to start my journey through R.E.M.’s music, beginning with their 1982 debut EP Chronic Town and continuing as long as I can get something out of their music. I may make it all the way back to 2008’s Accelerate, which oddly enough is the first R.E.M. album I’ve listened to in its entirety, or I may not. But I’m going to give it the old community college try and hope that you’ll enjoy the ride with me.
Tune into this space over the next several weeks as I tackle the bulk of R.E.M.’s discography, which is to say their first EP and their 14 studio albums. If anyone cares to suggest some extra homework I’ll consider it, but I’d like to wrap this thing up in 2011.