The Week In Music: R.E.M. Runs Out Of Time

Seminal alternative rock band calls it quits
  • Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/
    Michael Stipe
September 23, 2011 -- 4:00 am PDT

After 31 years, three GRAMMYs and nine Top 10 albums, R.E.M. has officially run out of time. The seminal Georgia-based alt-rock trio who so famously lost their religion announced Wednesday that they are calling it quits. While the band offered fans their thanks, the only explanation for the breakup was that "the time just feels right." But fans should rest assured. After all, R.E.M.'s catalog stretches back 15 studio albums, leaving plenty of shiny, happy, though sometimes melancholy ("Everybody Hurts" anyone?), tunes. "We built something extraordinary together," said frontman Michael Stipe. "We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it.... This wasn't an easy decision." While you ponder Stipe's eloquent words, here are a couple of other R.E.M.-related items to ponder: Paste magazine has put together its list of 20 best R.E.M. cover songs, and in our final Nirvana-related item for the week, frontman Kurt Cobain was reportedly listening to R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People before he died in 1994.

OK, we lied. We have one more Nirvana-related item for the week. In more proof that artists can draw inspiration from unlikely sources, it seems Kurt Cobain made quite the influential impression on rapper Lil Wayne. According to a MTV report, Weezy was rocking out to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" long before he was performing songs such as "Back That Azz Up." "I was a real big fan of that," said Weezy. "'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was one of the only rock songs that would come on and [you'd] be like, 'That one is OK, I can deal with that one.'" Can we look forward to a forthcoming Nirvana cover by Weezy? Maybe a rapafied rendition of "Pennyroyal Tea"?

The death of charismatic frontman Freddie Mercury in 1991 was devastating for both Queen and fans of the band. After a period of inactivity, the band picked back up with vocalist Paul Rodgers in 2005 and released an album and performed a handful of tours before parting ways in 2009. Since then, Queen fans have wondered if that was all she wrote for their favorite band. Now there seems to be a new beginning on the horizon. In an interview with Rolling Stone, drummer Roger Taylor confirmed plans are underway for the Queen Extravaganza, an officially sanctioned Queen project featuring all-new members. Taylor has launched a North American talent search to find "s***-hot" musicians. "The Queen Extravaganza will not be a traditional tribute show," said Taylor. "It's a brand-new show specially designed to enable fans to celebrate the music of Queen." As heritage acts enter the twilight of their respective careers, could this be a new way of preserving musical legacies for new generations? That remains to be seen, but Taylor is betting on a winning proposition for Queen Mach 2. "Let's face it, we're getting a little long in the tooth, but there are an awful lot of tribute bands, some of them good, some of them not good. And we [want to] put together something that we [think is] purely extraordinary," he said. Think you have the goods to hit Freddie's operatic notes in "Bohemian Rhapsody," pluck John Deacon's bass line in "Another Bites The Dust" or knock out Brian May's guitar solo in "Tie Your Mother Down"? All parties interested in auditioning for the Queen Extravaganza can enter here.

As a show of loyalty to their favorite bands, some fans collect truckloads of memorabilia. Some get a back-covering tattoo. And some rack up frequent flyer miles in following their favorite act from city to city. However, this kind of loyalty may seem less impressive given that Missouri native George F. Blackburn has taken his musical devotion to a new level in officially changing his name to his favorite album, Led Zeppelin II. "[Led Zeppelin] changed my life, forever, and that's my whole reason for doing this," said the newly christened Led Zeppelin II. The 64-year-old is making a new start in his life following the divorce from his third wife and he says the name has already paid dividends. "I reinvented myself," said II. "Since I became Led Zeppelin, my life has improved a thousand fold." While Led Zeppelin II no doubt has a catchy namely ring to it, if you're inclined to follow suit and rename yourself after your favorite album we recommend thinking twice before considering the following: Chocolate Starfish And The Hotdog Flavored Water (Limp Bizkit), Back On My B.S. (Busta Rhymes), Evisceration Plague (Cannibal Corpse), You Can Tune A Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish (REO Speedwagon), and Untitled (The Byrds).

While they may be considered some of the biggest rock bands ever, acts such as Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses and Led Zeppelin are getting a slap on the hand in the form of a shocking report card from pointing out the bad spelling errors in their respective band names. Other bands being taken to task for their spelling infractions include the Beatles, Bloc Party, Reel Big Fish, Mötley Crüe (because the accents are apparently unnecessary and it should be crew, not crue), and Lynyrd Skynyrd (changed to Leonard Skinner). In direct contrast to Alice Cooper, it appears school is back in, namely English class, for this collective of bands.

With "the Big 4" of heavy metal having recently played Yankee Stadium in New York, one wonders just how easy it was for headliners Metallica to follow the energy-packed sets of Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. According to eclectic artist Tori Amos, it'd be a piece of cake. "I'll stand next to the hardest f***ing heavy metal band on any stage in the world and take them down," Amos told "Emotion has power that the metal guys know is just you can't touch it. Insanity can't touch the soul. It's going to win every f***ing time. Gauntlet laid down, see who steps up!" On the surface, it would seem an eclectic artist such as Amos might have a challenging time following fist-pumping songs such as "Enter Sandman," "Caught In A Mosh," "Sweating Bullets, " and "South Of Heaven. " But Amos' latest album, Night Of Hunters, is arguably equally intense, consisting of a classically inspired song cycle centering around the theme of a relationship disintegrating. Couple this with the fact that she's already turned in a haunting cover of Slayer's "Raining Blood," maybe Amos could f***ing do it.

Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" featuring Christina Aguilera is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and iTunes singles chart.

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