After 31 years, alt-rock pioneers R.E.M. 'calls it a day'

After 31 years and 15 albums, the pioneering American alternative rock group R.E.M. announced Wednesday that it will be no more.

The group, whose hits included "Shiny Happy People" and "Everybody Hurts," were a cult band on the US college rock circuit before hitting the mainstream in the early 1990s.

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band," the Athens, Georgia-based quartet said on its website (www.remhq.com).

"We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."

Led by Michael Stipe on vocals and Peter Buck on guitar, R.E.M. took alt-rock to the masses with a string of hits also including "Radio Free Europe" and "The End of the World As We Know It."

"A wise man once said: 'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave,'" Stipe said. "We built something extraordinary together... but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way."

Ethan Kaplan, who runs a R.E.M. fan website, told Rolling Stone that pressure from Warner Brothers records on the fiercely independent band to come out with new material might have been a reason for the break-up.

In any case Bassist Mike Mills said there was no acrimony; the band simply felt it was time to go their separate ways.

"During our last tour, and while making 'Collapse Into Now' and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'What next?"

"Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

He added: "We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other.

"We feel kind of like pioneers in this - there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart.

"The time just feels right."

The band's Facebook page was immediately inundated with expressions of sorrow at the news. "Your music changed my life. Very sad news," wrote Sandra Simao Andrade.

"Thank you R.E.M. for the years of wonderful music. 'Losing my Religion' will always be my favorite," wrote Curtis Frank.

Buck added that he and the other band members "walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years.

"Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world."

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