It’s the end of R.E.M. as we know it, and I feel fine

R.E.M. called it quits after 31 years together yesterday. And if it wasn’t for Twitter, no one would care.

The band’s break-up falls into a new category of news created by social media: stuff that isn’t important or relevant enough for TV or print, but makes great water cooler (an old-fashioned word for Twitter) talk. Music magazines rushed to generate nostalgia for a band that, frankly, hasn’t made a good album in more than a decade.

Beam me up Scotty

Kirk circa 1966

Within hours, sites like SPIN and Paste were posting ‘best of’ compilations and ‘tribute’ stories. To me, the band’s breakup is reminiscent of [SPOILER ALERT] Captain Kirk’s death at the end of Star Trek: Generations. If you haven’t seen the film, then you probably never will, since it was released with minimal fanfare around the same time R.E.M. was finishing up Monster.

I was a huge fan of the original Star Trek TV series. Even the first 3 or 4 movies were pretty good. But as the movies continued, Captain Kirk started to look less like a daring starship commander and more like a PriceLine.com spokesman. His character died, but after nearly 30 years, he wasn’t the man fans had fallen in love with. The real Captain Kirk lives on in 79 hour-long episodes from the late 60s. The guy who died in the 1994 film was just a chubby impostor (Evil Kirk perhaps?)

To seek out and explore new donuts

Kirk circa 1994

Like Kirk, R.E.M.’s demise was met with a resounding, “meh.”

Yeah they’re done playing, but was anyone even listening anymore? The group will hopefully be remembered not for their latest flop Collapse Into Now (2011), but for albums like Out of Time (1991) and Automatic For The People (1992). And at least they had the general decency (which has eluded bands like Journey) to recognize when they’re no longer producing good music and call it quits.

So to Captain Kirk: thank you for saving the universe time and again with your decisiveness and boyish good looks.

And to R.E.M.: Thank you for giving music bloggers such as myself something to write about on an otherwise slow day.

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