Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #97: "We All Go Back to Where We Belong" - R.E.M.

Before we begin, let's be real -- R.E.M. will be back together for a reunion tour within two years, and another record will come out eventually. This is not the end of R.E.M. as we know it, not just yet.

But that is what was announced in September. After over 30 years as a band, Michael Stipe and Co. have gone their separate ways, releasing this kiss-off as a song to complete the R.E.M. story.

"We All Go Back to Where We Belong" is among the most poignant of R.E.M.'s releases -- a tall order, of course, given the band's longevity. Perhaps it's the knowledge that the band has disbanded, coupled with the wistful farewell lyrics, that creates this feel, or maybe it's the pleasant strings which waft in and out of the low-tempo tune.

"Is this really what you want?" asks Stipe over easygoing guitar and occasional trumpet. The answer to this may be widely disputed among fans, but you have to hand it to R.E.M. for going out this way, with all members seemingly on good terms with one another.

Either way, the song is a triumph, and perhaps one of the most fitting codas any band has given itself. To think that this may be the last time we hear Stipe's retrospective lyrics and Peter Buck's unmistakable guitar timbre together is a strange thought indeed. This is a band many grew up with, mainly college students, over quite a few generations. College rock as we know it may not be the same without them.

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