Skip to content

When Good Bands Go Bad; more thoughts on fiction

On a certain evening last year you might have found me in the cheap seats at MSG, eyes glazed over, fingers on temples, trying desperately to stay awake halfway through R.E.M’s set. They were promoting yet another depressingly bad album “Accelerate” (I only bought three songs off this misnamed product and they were just not there at all -“Supernatural Superserious” you might remember, it walked like an R.E.M. classic and it quacked like an R.E.M. classic but it wasn’t an R.E.M. classic).

Michael Stipe is like one of those kids who was a bit shy and a bit strange in High School but morphs into a beauty in college and becomes an overbearing asshole. He is the worst sort of front man -simultaneously enervated and arrogant, Mike never stops talking down to his audience. he lacks empathy and while he is energetic, he isn’t charismatic.

Naff albums that don’t sell. Naff concerts that bore you stupid. What gives?

R.E.M., after a clutch of ordinary to very good albums released their first of four sequential masterpieces, “Out Of Time” in 1991. This was followed by one of the most beautiful albums you’ll ever hear, “Automatic for The People,” and the monster “Monster” with R.E.M’s best rock song ever “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” on one of the best rock albums in a year with an overwhelming amount of great rock albums. I saw them on the “Monster” and thought they were a bit bland (even then i didn’t think Stipe was a good front man).

But they had one more great album, the first under their huge Warner Bros. contract, “new Adventures In Hi-Fi” -an obtuse curve ball of an album that shouldn’t have worked at all.

It was R.E.M’s last with drummer Bill Berry and the price would be paid soon: a litany of real real bad stuff: “Up,” “Reveal,” “Around The Sun,” and “Accelerate”. Has there ever been such a fall off by a major band?

Why: Bill Berry? Sure -losing your drummer has got to hurt (the Stones could lose Bill Wyman, they’d be in real trouble without Charlie Watts); hubris? absolutely, when you’ve been on a roll like that it’s easy to believe you’re infallible. Finite talent? All of the above.

It happens but it’s odd. Pearl Jam have a similar story with a big difference. Pearl Jam had no $80 Million contract and seemed to push the self destruct button on purpose. They didn’t want to be “stars” and so made a concerted effort to not cater to their audience after “Vitalogy” sold a million copies in its first week. It worked.

Some folks give up: Nils Lofgren fronted an excellent rock band, Grin before recording as a solo atist and releasing “Cry Tough” . On the precipice of fame and fortune disappeared into the ranks of Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Like so many of us in the civilian world, musicians lives are filled with disappointment before the all too inevitable slide into obscurity. Your questions is this: at what point do you leave Mike Stipe to his own devices?

Reading Juliana Hatfield’s autobiography I couldn’t help but note how much better it is than Lethem’s “You Don’t Love Me Yet.” Not better written. It isn’t that. better at accepting the sexiness of rock stardom and yet bleeding it of its exoticism at the same time.

Coming up this weekend (if I get the chance): The Dead at MSG and a look back at 2008

Leave a Comment


Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at

39 Wooster Street Retail High Ceiling Luxury Retail Space For Lease by Owner Ideal Fashion Week Location

By admin | September 26, 2023 |

Our blade signage and suspended-hanging LED ceiling are just a few of the standout features that make this space truly exceptional

The Replacements — Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) (Rhino)

By Rob O'Connor | September 26, 2023 |

there is nothing to do here but praise

US Top Ten Singles Tracking 9-15-23 – 9-21-23

By Iman Lababedi | September 26, 2023 |

Drake takes the penthouse with the ever popular SZA

Jonathan Demme’s “Stop Making Sense” Restored And Remastered In Imax, Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | September 25, 2023 |

it makes you a band member chasing Byrne around the stage and flippy flopping to him

US Top Ten Albums Tracking 9-15-23 – 9-21-23

By Iman Lababedi | September 25, 2023 |

the Rod Wave album is beautiful soul and bumped Olivia…

Nick Cave Birthday Celebration Party At Zebulon, Friday, September 22nd, 2023

By Alyson Camus | September 24, 2023 |

a tribute to one of the greats

Sneak Peaks: Upcoming Album Releases 9-29-23 – 10-5-23

By Iman Lababedi | September 24, 2023 |

managed to maintain their edge

Hank Williams Jr. Is the Father of the Modern Republican Party

By Steve Crawford | September 24, 2023 |

the braggadocios attitude of a professional wrestler with songs that celebrated Dixie

Tony Orlando And SohoJohnny Always Ready To Tie A Yellow Ribbon for Charity

By admin | September 23, 2023 |

helped solidify Tony Orlando and Dawn’s place in pop music history.

UK Top 10 Albums 9-22-23 – 9-28-23

By Iman Lababedi | September 23, 2023 |

Busted to the side

Scroll To Top