Older vs newer REM (and the age of the listener?)

OK… I just had an online discussion with a guy about REM and want to get your feedback. This was the sentence he wrote me when I said I had been into them from the beginning. “You must be older than me. I didn’t get into them until their peak albums, starting with Up.” When I received this email, I had no idea how to respond. Is it because I am older? Likely. But, seriously, what?

I suspect people are partial to the era they got into REM. I’m partial to the late 80s/90s and don’t hold the late years in high regard. Likewise, folks who discovered REM during the 2000s probably favor that sound.

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I would say that there’s a strong correlation between the Generation X and R.E.M. fandom. Which means that most R.E.M. fans should be in their fifties by now. Which of course doesn’t exclude that other age groups (teenagers, twentysomethings, etcetera) could also be fans.

Furthermore, I would say that some bands have transcended their central demographic group. For instance, Nirvana is able to appeal to a wider universe of age groups: including today’s teens and twentysomethings. Same with Guns n Roses, Led Zeppelin or even The Beatles, those are acts that appeal to very different demographic groups.

I think that bands should be able to rejuvenate their audiences -if they want to continue existing in the hearts and minds of people for generations to come. However, R.E.M. in my opinion, hasn’t been succesful in this area and still relies heavily on the Generation X.

Regarding the discussion of the I.R.S.’ versus the Warner’s catalogues, I think that it’s secondary -after all we’re talking about the same band. So, whether someone relates more to earlier R.E.M. (as opposed to “newer” R.E.M.) it doesn’t really matter since we both have something in common and that is being a fan of the same band.

Here’s what I can understand by that.

First, if you were into them from the beginning, you were already a reasonable “musical ear” age in about 1980-82. Say, 15 years old. That means you’d be about 55-60 now.

If the guy considers Up and its followers their “peak albums”, first, he’s dead wrong, but second, he probably had a “reasonable musical ear age of about 15 years old” at about that time. That means he’d be about 40 now. Much younger.

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Ha. I think you nailed it. I’m 57. I read the Rolling Stone review of Murmur and went out that day and bought the album. I don’t think I listened to anything else for a few weeks. I just loved it. I saw them on tour that year and loved it. Then I bought the next album. And the next. Until Green. Then I started to sour. By Up I was out. So when I heard someone thought that Up and a few subsequent albums were peak, I was just floored. I shouldn’t have been, I guess…

In retrospect, I’m glad they had “new” fans then. Good for REM and good for those fans.



And I don’t mean to disparage the newer and younger fans who think R.E.M.'s best work came after Up, but they’re simply missing the mark by far, by all means. Up itself is a top5 R.E.M. album for me at #5, but #1-4 all came before it, and CiN is easily my least-liked album by them.

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I’ll compare it to Star Wars. The prequels are insanely popular with millennials, but as a gen x-er, I cannot begin to comprehend how they can even be mentioned in the same breath as the original trilogy.


“I suspect people are partial to the era they got into REM”

I agree with this. From what I observed this last few months this seems to be the case.

I´m 22 and just recently became a R.E.M. fan. Although I already knew a few songs (Losing My Religion, Swan Swan H , Country Feedback and Shiny Happy People), and really liked them, it wasn´t until I re-listen to LMR and heard Leave for the first time (and immediatly became obsessed with it) in january that I decided to listen to a full R.E.M. album. That being said, because of Leave NAIHF was the first R.E.M. album I listened to before going all the way back to Murmer and listening to all of them (I didn´t know about the existence of Chronic Town yet), and they absolutely blew me away. I think that´s the reason why I don´t prefer one specif era and really appreciate all of them, but NAIHF is my favorite album over all.


Original trilogy all the way!

Tbh, I watched two of the newer films out of loving the original trilogy and hoping I’d love everything new as well. I don’t even want to know what everything else is about after that.

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How can an opinion be “dead wrong”?

I have no idea why, but you’re always trying to be a contrarian. You had no reason at all to reply to this conversation, and especially to question that, but there you are.

You’re older than me. It comes as a shock to me, then, that you haven’t realized there are clearly right and wrong opinions in the world. Often they are pretty obvious. And when I say “he’s dead wrong”, of course THAT IS MY OWN OPINION, but you fail to realize that for the unique sake of being a contrarian.

I said it before: people are always ready to die on that idiotic “art is subjective” hill. I’ll say it again: others are ready to die on that “I have the right to an opinion” hill without ever realizing their opinion can, YES, be dead wrong in the face of the context at hand, and also… it can be completely irrelevant, like my own opinion on NASA matters.



I don’t want to get into a fight with anyone, but Up is, in my opinion, R.E.M.'s finest album. I consider R.E.M.'s ‘peak’ to be Out Of Time through to (and including) the much maligned Reveal. I’m 44, if that matters.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: music, and the love thereof, is 100% context related. Where, who, what you were when you heard it, and fell in love with it. What it means, and has come to mean, to you, the listener.

Dismissal of music, or someone else’s opinion of music, isn’t really cool. It’s fine to say, “I don’t like that”, or “I disagree”, or whatever. But describing an opinion as “dead wrong”, (whilst an opinion in itself), kinda crosses some unseen line between discourse and… I dunno, something else.

None of us are right. None of us are wrong. What I love about Murmurs is that it hasn’t descended into the usual social media bloodbath that we see everywhere else yet. Let’s try to keep that going, eh? It’s the R.E.M. way.


Dismissal of someone’s taste in music is a part of life. People having terrible taste is a part of life – people you know, who live close to you, and that you actually know have a terrible taste in music or whatever else while you, for some reason, try to look the other way. It’s not like you need to comment on their bad taste, but knowing they do is essential in the way you face the world.

Please, in the name of everyone’s good health and happiness, just accept that. Let’s not be hypocritical that “everything is fine in the name of art” or in the name of opinions. Everyone will have a better life just knowing there’s right and wrong in the world, and that you CAN comment on other’s tastes not only in music, but elsewhere as well.

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I dunno what to say, man. I disagree with you. Music is subjective. So there is no right or wrong.

For a very brief period of time in the early 90s, my favourite band was the world’s favourite band. Outside of that, I’ve been in an overwhelming minority when it comes to music. (Or film and tv, come to that…)

Is that because I’m wrong? No. Is it because the people who like ‘popular’ music that I don’t like are wrong? Also no.

Don’t really know how else to put it. Just don’t want Murmurs turning into an aggressive and disrespectful cesspit, like the rest of social media, including the various R.E.M. pages.

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Yes, I fully understand what you mean and I share the feeling. But there are some things we can’t run from.

Opinions barely matter. I find it pathetic that people thump their chests saying “that’s my opinion and you have to respect it”. Hah, no, dude, no one in the world “has to” respect your opinion or mine. Your so-sacred opinion is only valid if you come from a place of understanding – deep understanding, more often. Otherwise, you are not entitled to an opinion. That’s what kills social media: everyone thinks their opinion on everything matters and “should be respected”. It’s the absolute opposite. Often, it’s not only irrelevant, but very, very wrong – and, oh my god, YES, there are several wrong opinions in the world, both concerning life-or-death matters (is “blacks should die” a reasonable, valid “opinion”, ffs??) and concerning arts and pretty much everything else in between. Is spanking your kid a right way to raise him? Should we compare Stipe’s latest fart with R.E.M.'s finest hours? Are Chinese-made plastic items the same quality as the more expensive item of the same kind?

Good and bad art do exist. Good and terrible music do exist, and everything else in a spectrum between them. Both from what you think and from objective points of view, of building, of writing. I’m an amateur musician myself and I can see clearly a lot of stuff related to music that most people can’t. It’s not just about “I like it”. If you don’t know anything about music or music appreciation, sure, “I like it” shall suffice.

Also: contrary to PC and cancel culture, people are free to express those wrong opinions, to have different views and to disagree. But it’s up to the more decent of us to also force ourselves to have filters built and based on information, knowledge and wisdom that we go on acquiring through life. Otherwise you simply cannot go on living and you’ll be in a forever struggle and under self-torture. Accept that most of humanity is composed of people who are completely ignorant in most matters, and are not sophisticated enough when it comes to art, and you won’t spend your life thumping your chest saying “I have an opinion and everyone should respect it”. You’ll just dismiss the noise and filter what’s good.

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Your first mistake is accusing me of being a contrarian, I merely disagree with the sentiment being expressed. There’s nothing “contrarian” about that.

I wonder what this past version of Murmurs was that was evidently all sunshine and rainbows? It’s not like everyone was always at each others throats or anything but the Murmurs I remember wasn’t exactly free of conflict. I recall more than a few disagreements as well as some knockdown, drag out fights. I’m not saying it was like that all the time but it certainly happened. I also recall one member making homophobic slurs with no reprimand. Maybe because it was in one of the subforums where where the idea was that anything goes.
As far as the R.E.M. groups I’m a member of on FB there’s not any I would describe as a “cesspool.” Maybe the comments section on R.E.M.’s official FB page but that’s pretty much to be expected as so many official pages are full of bots and trolls. There’s a member of the R.E.M. Fans United FB group that has a long running vendetta against one of the R.E.M. Timeline folks that has made numerous slanderous statements against that person over the years that always gets away with it with no repercussions. Why that is, I have no idea bu if I was an Admin I would have dropped the ban hammer on them eons ago.


I’m sorry – are you being a contrarian again??

I’m pretty tired of all this. Having to explain the blatantly obvious when someone so childish feels the need to yell “no” at the adults is tiresome. Move on.

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I was not being contrarian to start with.

Whiçh makes me a bit weird, I’m 65 (in a month) and like the newer stuff…