I'm sorry, but that's the way it will go down. No one remembers the band now after 1995 ffs.
The post-Berry years have actively hurt the band's legacy and it would be a fool to deny this. Too many years, too many mediocre albums, too many years of Stipe making a fool of himself. There's been a desperation or a want in Stipe as a frontman since 1998 and it pissed me off years ago.
If they had split on Dec 31 1999 they would be gods forever.
So people will remember Monster but not New Adventures In Hi-Fi even though Monster, at one time, was the number 1 CD found in used CD bins? I also know of some longtime hardcore R.E.M. fans that lost interest beginning with Monster. I ran into some people after they announced they were disbanding that said they didn't realize R.E.M. was even still together and these were music fans that actually keep track of what's going on in the music world. For an indication of how they will be remembered, I say look no further than all of the press reports that came flooding in after they made the announcement that they were disbanding. Yes, their post-Bill period was largely chalked up by most writers as inconsequential but I don't recall a single one of them saying they had tarnished their legacy by recording those albums. Like it or not, those albums are also part of what R.E.M. will be remembered for. I'm sure Bill leaving had a lot to do with how well (and/or how poorly) those records were received but you also have to factor in an ever changing musical landscape as far as how well those albums were known on a global scale. That ever changing musical climate (one that's still very much in flux) also had a lot to do with the demise of R.E.M. and is something every artist is still struggling with today. At least the ones that care about their music falling into the right hands and actually being heard. As far as their legacy is concerned post-Bill, those records may not have registered in the same way that their earlier work did but R.E.M. continued to maintain their prowess as a live band right up until the very end. What actually went on behind the scenes as far as inner band strife has only been hinted at as far as the final decision to call it quits. I'm sure that will all come out in the wash as soon as the inevitable biographies are written on the band that will be published in the years to come. The dust has barely had a chance to settle at this point.