The Austin Chronicle

ACL Fest Interviews

By Christopher Gray, September 19, 2003, Music


8:30pm, Sunday, Capital Metro stage

The ACL Festival represents a kind of coming-out party for Athens, Ga.'s sure-fire Hall of Famers R.E.M. They're on the road stateside for the first time since 1999, jogging people's memories just in time for this fall's 2-CD greatest-hits set, featuring new songs "Bad Day" and "Animal." Then they head back into the studio for a full-length album -- and another tour next fall.

"The people I talked to said that they thought [the show] was at least as good if not better than we've ever been," says guitarist Peter Buck. "We're really together and tight and enjoying it."

Not so long ago, it was the decision not to tour that irrevocably altered the band's trajectory. After 1991's Out of Time and 1992's Automatic for the People vaulted them to the pinnacle of their profession, staying off the road ultimately led to the mixed-review albums Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and Up. Still, Buck thinks the group did the right thing.

"At the end of 1989, we'd probably done almost 2,000 shows," says Buck. "If we'd just gone on the road after Out of Time and done a yearlong tour, would we have made Automatic for the People? Who knows?"

No such speculation this time around. Buck says the band chooses its sets from a roster of about 80 songs, and that the new ones "fall toward the rock edge of the spectrum." And they're just as dissatisfied with the status quo as "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)."

"This is a very confusing time," says Buck. "You kind of get the feeling that there's no one really in charge. I think 'Bad Day' is about the fact that news has become entertainment, and people don't really have access to information that's accurate."

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