Is R.E.M. underrated by new music nerds?

I've been in a R.E.M. phase in late 2018, they kept me going through the toughest period of my life. A lot of their stuff especially in their incredible 1987-1996 run means a lot to me and have been pivotal in growing my music taste but emotion aside I think quality-wise they were one of the greatest rock band of all time, if not one the best band. I actually think this is not a hot take.

What I think is an interesting thing to discuss is how R.E.M. are relevant to new audiences of my age (I'm 20 btw) like all the music nerds that grew on the Internet (RYM or /mucore) or the music channels or profiles on YouTube and Instagram that review or examine music.

I think that in this demographic area R.E.M. are underrated or more specifically they are put inside the categories of "Gen X bands" like U2 or similar. And i think it's a shame because they have one the best musical palettes of all time provided by really skilled musicians and an incredible and eclectic vocalist and songwriter like Michael Stipe. A band that even when they became globally famous they managed to stay coherent to their sound (until at least the early 90s) and political ethic. Their material should get more recognition among younger audiences like mine considering the huge influence they had on a lot of artist.

What do you think?


We all have our favourite one band,  or couple  bands that we do care about and follow, …. and the many bands that we don’t.

Some drive Fords, and some drive Chevys… You have your fave band …. Carry on.

They did what they did, and for a short while they were great; until Michael Stipe's ego and political leanings spoiled what was best about them. I think thatt hey were average musicians, but Peter Buck just had the spirit to evoke emotions from his playing that far more technically adept players miss. 

The first few discs were really a revelation at that time I think, my favorite being Life's Rich Pageant. I believe that time will be good to the earlier part of their catalog, where their more obscure lyrics inspire individual interpretation rather than the dated and tiresome political commentary that came later. 


I'm 71, and I like a lot of REM's music, and there's also a lot that doesn't do much for me. I saw them once live back in the 90's, with Sonic Youth opening, and kinda lost interest in REM while becoming a big fan of Sonic Youth.... I never thought of U2 as a 'Gen X band' (I was still in my 20's when I first saw them) any more than I thought of the Beatles as a '60's band'. 

@roxy54 Gotta take issue with the statement "I think thatt hey were average musicians". IMHO Mike Mills is one of the top 10 bass guitar players of all time. He carried the band, drove the music forward, and sang some decent backup vocals to boot. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that REM saved rock music, coming on the scene at the peak of the pompous, overwrought arena rock era and before the emergence of grunge and the whole Seattle scene. I can remember driving home from college in 83' cranking "Murmur" on my tricked out car stereo and feeling that music was alive again. A pivotal band that with an amazing discography until "Out of Time" when they lost their way and then fizzled out altogether. 


Well, I don't think that rock music ever needed "saving". It's just a loose category that has many variations, and within that, REM certainly made their unique contribution. They were exciting, different and passionate, and not afraid to throw in an unusual instrument here and there. My apologies for underating Mike Mills. I saw them three times live, and I will agree that he is very talented. I don't know if you will agree with this, but I am someone who always pays attention to drummers, and I don't think that Bill Berry was much of a drummer at all. It's fortunate that the rest of the band was so interesting that it didn't matter much. He never had any interesting fills. He just sort of "kept time".   

I’m a-bit above 50 and REM music was never "tasty" on my listening plate, because they’re extremely boring on each and every track they’ve created. Their marketing was fantastic though, because they were able to sell feces for diamonds. Therefore overrated is a lot more precise word, then uderrated.


Count on you for an ignorant comment like that. Since you're such an expert on the band, give specific critiques of which discs you are even familiar with. 

Let me guess, you know one song like "Losing My Religion", and you didn't like it. Well neither did I, but they had 4 earlier discs which were very good.

Idk; Out of Time was a benchmark album of the early 90's. It set up Automatic before the pivoted to Monster. I just found an original pressing of Out of Time and was transported not just back three decades but to a solid album. 

Still, think of the successful, sound-defining 90's bands that have not stuck around over the last 30 years: 10,000 Maniacs; Pearl Jam; Jane's; Live. I think REM was a much appreciated, zeitgeist capturing act of the time. 

@roxy54 Totally agree on Bill Berry. Hard to give REM superstar status with one weak link in the band but somehow, for me, they are up there given the vibrant energy they brought to rock n' roll at a time when the great bands of the 60s were lost in a fog of drugs and mid life crises.

For the period, REM was THE defining alternative music band.  Not just alternative but constantly reinventing and exploring new musical forms.  There were a lot of grunge and indy bands around that time but none had the breadth of musical innovation and experimentation that REM had.

Pearl Jam?  Nirvana? Tori Amos? Self homogenizing emo.

@seola30 First off, wecome to Audiogon.  It looks like you just joined today and this is your first post.

Just my take on your question but here goes.  Taste in music is very much tied to generations in 5 - 10 year blocks.  You are 20ish and I'm 68 so the music on "my youth" could be mostly unknown to you.  REM is a solid pop band but by no means would I put them anywhere near the top either by music or by lyrics.  But that's just my take on them based on comparisons to the bands I grew up with.  If you would like to get a sense of what I think is near the top, give several listens to the following:

Neil Young - FREEDOM (1989)

Ry Cooder - Chicken Skin Music (1976)

Rolling Stone - Sticky Fingers (1971)

After you have become familiar with these three discs, see if you still think REM are worthy of top of the pack status.

One generation to another.  Some music really stands the test of time. Cheers.

@roxy54 your guess was fully contrary. Losing my Religion isn't one boring schlager song while the rest pretty much are.


I always wonder why some people opt for dumping on someone's personal opinion instead of just ignoring it? Especially when that person states that band "kept me going through the toughest period of my life".

It's just comes off as needlessly cruel and insensitive.

They were my favorite band from 1983 - 1987 while they were on the IRS label and when Michael Stipe still mumbled his lyrics. “Murmur”, “Reckoning”, and “Fables of the Reconstruction” rank among my all time favorite discs and are still on regular rotation. I lost interest in the band once they became very popular. I’m a tail end Boomer and my Gen Z daughter enjoys some of their older albums when I play them.




I thank you for proving my point about you. You were talking out of your a** about a subject you know nothing about. Surprise.

Not my favourites of that period, but they were an alternative.

I have the feeling though that most stopped after Murmur, especially Stipe’s passion and Buck’s ideas and exquisite guitar playing. Still, Lifes Rich Pageant (the beginning of an end?), Automatic for the People, Fables of the Reconstruction, and bits here and there is what remains, imho.



Funny you bring this up. I was recently thinking that I haven't listened to REM for along while nor have I heard or read much about them. Their first EP Chronic Town is fabulous as is Murmur. As is the case with many bands, their efforts to evolve their sound and vision beyond their initial offerings lost fans over time. 


I recall a dealer system demo back in the 90s of “Radio Song” on my CD copy of “Out of Time” using Dynaudio speakers that put me into system upgrade mode big time. There was so much musical articulation on display with that demo that drew me in and it took me quite a long time to be able to pull off that same trick at home. I ended up replacing pretty much everything at the time to do it.  I still use that track as a reference. My setup has to do that one a certain way or else. 

When R.E.M. were hot I was already too old for them. By then I was listening to NRBQ, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Los Lobos, Steve Earle, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Blasters, Marshall Crenshaw, Nick Lowe, etc. You music. Better songwriters, singers, and musicians than the guys in R.E.M. IMO, of course.

While the music of those I mention still sounds fresh and current (timeless), R.E.M. sounds of it's time: dated. Again, IMO. I know a couple of older musicians who are still stuck in 1966, to whom the music of the 60's (particularly The damn Beatles) is the best ever made. Just as older people in the 1960's felt the same about the Big Bands of the 30's and 40's.

There is no reason to expect current young people to be able to relate to R.E.M. any more than fans of the Big Bands could relate to the new music of the 60's. Just as the fans of the Big Bands didn't get or like The Beatles, young people now have no obligation to like R.E.M. We had our time, it's now their's.

Well now for a contrarian opinion. Last night, I had an 80s'-90's ROON radio stream kicked off by "NIGHT TIME" by Killing Joke. REM came up on this stream and I was just thinking how good they were and that I need to go back and listen again to some of their great albums. Especially now that I have some gear that works perfectly for my ears.

BTW - in my 80's binge last night, I got stuck on Killing Joke's catalog and "MIND BOMB" by The The. On headphones that MIND BOMB is something else.

If you want to impress a young person, play he or she a Rockabilly song. Try "The Train Kept A-Rollin’", for instance. Jeff Beck got The Yardbirds to record their pretty good version of the song (the first one I heard), but in pales in comparison to the version by The Johnny Burnette Rock ’n’ Roll Trio, which is absolutely incendiary! The original is a 1951 Jump Blues by Tiny Bradshaw, also very cool. And then there is the embarrassing version by, ugh, Aerosmith.

By-the-way, the lead guitar playing on Burnette’s version is in dispute. The Trio’s Paul Burlinson is credited with the part, but some think it is actually that of Nashville studio guitarist Grady Martin. It didn’t matter to Beck: he loved the playing of both.

Another by-the-way: If you like the playing of Jeff Beck (and who doesn’t?), do yourself a huge favour and get some albums by Danny Gatton. Gatton’s Rockabilly (and Jazz, and Blues) playing is far hotter than that of Beck. IMO, as always, but every advanced guitarist I’ve played with also feels (or felt, if RIP) that way. THE guitarist’s guitarist.

I think we should stay away from stating what is good, better best.  I happen to  particularly like three bands from the 1980s: U2, R.E.M., and The Smiths.  In answer to the original poster's question, I agree that the last two are less well known than U2, certainly in part because they haven't been active for a long time.

@bdp24, I agree, you're too old for them.

R.E.M. was a great band.  A big shout out to Don Dixon and Mitch Easter as producers on the first few albums.  The band evolved and lost early fans and gained many more new fans, but if anything, they kept it real.  Well as real as being wealthy, traveling around the world in private jets while playing rock and roll to screaming fans can be real.  They might not have been greatest instrumentalists, but the were solid all around, particularly the drummer.

rem was fantastic, but (like the byrds, the cars and the ramones) they hit their artistic peak right out of the gate w/chronic town and murmur--for me everything that came after marked a gradual, but noticeable decline--i rarely listen to anything after document. i also agree that the more they mumbled the lyrics the better they were.

@onhwy61: Don Dixon---NOW yer talkin'! I love his stuff, and his gal Marti Jones' as well.

As for The Ramones and The Byrds peaking out of the gate, I must disagree. The Ramones took a giant leap forward when Marky replaced Tommy on drums (the Road To Ruin LP). Marky is a much more muscular, punchy drummer than was Tommy, which really helped the band. By-the-way, they were the loudest band I ever heard live, far louder than even The Who.

The early Byrds albums are fantastic, but so are the middle and late period ones. Every musician I knew had the Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album, and the addition of Telecaster-master Clarence White turned them into a serious band (though drummer Gene Parsons was kinda lame, very sloppy, over-playing like crazy. He didn't understand how to play country music).


Disagree about the Byrd's. They had a lot of great material, and yes, Clarence White was a great addition. I saw them a number of times when he was in the band.

I completely disagree concerning The Cars. Candy O was their magnum opus.

@kb54 copy The Smiths they were working the same field but on the other side of the water—and they also had a great bass player.

The Smiths were brilliant and still one of my favorites. Their best music is timeless.

I liked them from Murmur till Monster then sort of lost interest. If any of you haven't, check out Dead Letter Office. That's a really good album with some great covers that rise up to perhaps best the originals.  As an aside, I agree with Michael Stipe. Murmur was OK but Pylon's debut album sounded better. 

Someone above said they were always political.

I would counter that most great rock n roll is inherently political. 

But please please don't go have the rails. Grab your wife's Ambien. 

They got lucky it seems, and although they produced a few decent songs they are utterly overrated. Some friends opened for them years ago and said they were absolute jerks to them...bad bad bad. Otherwise, meh...I've known too many great bands that never got the shot they did. Right place at the right time I suppose.

@seola30 So good that REM´s music gave you strength when you needed it. That´s a lot. And they have a lot of beautiful songs.

Personally I´m more of an „until Automatic for the People“–person but there are great songs on all of their albums. But that´s just me.

I think there are a few reasons why REM has not been widely rediscovered by a younger audience yet. Guitar music in general has become more of a niche in popular music. I just checked the US Charts: I´m not familiar with all the songs and artists but there´s hardly a rock song in the singles charts and in the album charts there´s a Greatful Dead-album on #18. So much for the younger demographic. And the younger artists and bands that do make rock music seem to reference or build on other styles than REM´s. I wouldn´t be surprised if at some point more young people discovered them, but rock history is so vast and offers so many styles, attitudes, signature sounds and expressions of emotions, that it may be just coincidence that so far they´ve been overlooked. Also a big part of REMs catalogue is not music that calls for attention, it´s more a world you can come in or relate to. I´m not a rock critic or historian, others could make these points much better, but I think there´s some truth to them.

Seola30.. since you are new here let me give you some unsolicited advice. This forum can be a very good source of information if you are trying to learn more about audio gear and accessories. Music, not so much. As soon as I read your post I thought " oh s*** here it comes ". What followed was an onslaught of a bunch of boomers screaming "get off my lawn" and "that's not music now this is real music"(insert band here). For what it's worth I myself am in my mid 50s and although I read the forum daily because I am interested in gear I rarely post for this reason. REM was a magnificent band and just because they became popular does not make this less so. Don't let anybody tell you different. You seem sincere and decent. I must respectfully say that this is not the place for you.


Yes.  You apparently are confused.  Clear thinking has nothing to do with one's subjective likes and dislikes.

In this case it didn't take much to clear my brain of over-rated, low talent, gimmicky groups whose time is well past.  And before you say I'm too young to appreciate such obvious talent, I was born 5 years before you, if your handle is indicative.

I’m with mksun. I was one of thousands of college DJ’s who were swept away by their first EP release Chronic Town and saw them live a bunch of times those years. To my younger ears, REM, along with a few lesser known bands such as the Replacements and Hüsker Dü, revolutionized a pretty stagnant music scene (bad hair bands, Huey Lewis et al & Talking Heads/Police/Clash/E Costello with 1 album remaining). I always felt that Chronic Town, Murmur, Reckoning, Fables.... & Lifes Rich Pageant are among one of the best album runs in music history. And although they would still make some great songs afterwards (What’s the Frequency, Man on the Moon, etc), I lost much of my interest afterwards as Michael Stipe’s lyrical style abruptly changed from more his more dreamy, rhythmic poetry towards to a more overt, literal political sermons. The politics of such rarely ages well (see Sting’s "Russians").

@seola30, I welcome your posting here and encourage you to do more.  Not everyone will agree about musical taste and preferences, but that really shouldn't be surprising.  What can come out of this type of discussion are other musicians that you might like.  For instance, Dreams So Real was another group out of Athens, GA.  Search them out and give a listen.  Peter Buck was involved in the earliest recordings.

There are always going to be haters, but talking about music is far more interesting than talking about power cords.

A shout out to Don Dixon's wife, Marti Jones, who should have been bigger. I read that the record label only had the money to push one artist and chose Tracy Chapman instead.  Nothing wrong with Tracy at all, but it shows how which artists become household names and which ones fall through the cracks is a crapshoot. 

@roxy54 @bdp24 i fully concur that the byrds had great material through notorious byrd brothers (i like clarence white, too, but i don't think they were writing many memorable songs by that time). for my money, tho, their vocal sound  was fully formed on the debut, and their best material was far-and-away gene clark's (first two records + eight miles high). likewise the ramones had great stuff through "road to ruin," but i was never grabbed by the more polished (albeit better-played) poppier stuff that followed.

as for the cars and candy o, it's a good record and "dangerous type" and "all i can do" are classics but i it always sounded a little bit like a slightly muted xerox of the first record, which is wall-to-wall hits.

@mikeydred I forgot to mention the “Chronic Town” EP which ranks amongst their greatest releases. It’s definitely worth hunting down the “Dead Letter Office” CD which contains “Chronic Town” in its entirety along with interesting unreleased tracks and outtakes from their early years. “Life’s Rich Pagent” and “Document” are also great. I was fortunate enough to see R.E.M. in concert in 1986 and experience their greatest material live.

I was a light-weight fan for sure. My favorite song is the one always dumped on. "Shiny Happy People".  Such a perfectly absurd song. With Kate Peirson's vocals, it just sorta knocked it out of the park. 

A great little piece of 90's exuberance! And the video...***chuckling***

Sad to see how this thread deteriorated from the OP's premise.  Music means so much to so many, It warms my heart to hear that REM made a connection to you that helped you through hard times.  That is what the best of music is about. Be your own man and ignore the flamers who are bashing the band that was important to you.  Ignore the crap responses telling you what to listen to.  Instead keep listening to what connects to you, who cares about what others thought was important when prop planes ruled the skies and hi-fi was recorded on 8 track mixers????  Back to your question, IMO, REM was the real deal.  My opinion matters not, but when you're listening to music how it makes you feel is everything.

Cheers and best wishes

you have 100s of great bands to discover - I envy you - I mean 100s that are better than REM. And that’s not against REM, it’s just that there are so many great bands since the 60s.

I think the 80s were the bleakest decades for rock music, and it's sad because I was a teenager then. Maybe that's why I grew up on 60s music.

and the more political, the more I like them. If I say it, no one cares, no one hears it, I will let Bono say it for me.

With their folk rocking sincerity and electric-yet-acoustic sound, REM were the closest thing to the Byrds this dyed-in-the-wool Byrds fan ever came across. I listened to Life's Rich Pageant for a good long time.  The other LPs, well, maybe not quite as much. Seola30 -- thanks for bringing them up! They're still on my record shelf despite the fact that (forgive the old John Stewart song lyric) I probably haven't thought of them in years.