I'm one of the old-schoolers who thought they went into their decline the moment they left I.R.S. The first time I heard Green I was devastated, because there was just so much crap on that record, and I realized that my fears about the band's direction as mapped out on Document were coming true. I found much of Out of Time to be annoying, and Automatic For the People was good but was still cast from this "new" R.E.M. mold that I'd never come to terms with -- the frenetic energy that initially made them who they were had long since dissipated, and I just didn't think the songs they were writing, or the way the band played them, were very interesting at that point. I actually liked Monster because it was so raw, loud, and different, but New Adventures lulled me back to sleep, and subsequent albums never woke me up. I was in college when R.E.M. ceased to be interesting to me, and that may have had a lot to do with why that shift occurred. I was being exposed to so much music, a lot of which was the result of other artists finding their way down trails that R.E.M. had blazed years before. As I delved deeper into the underground (and the Underground), R.E.M.'s ventures into major-label-land just bored me to death. It all sounded too big, too slow, too calculated, too disinterested, from a band that had once packed so much raw tension into each three-minute burst, even the supposedly "slow" or "quiet" ones. It seemed like Peter Buck had lost interest in his early rapid-fire guitar technique, and Stipe's lyrics were becoming trite and bland. Despite all this, I was still filled with anticipation each time the band released a new record, and was still bitterly disappointed each time that new record failed to excite me. There was a time in my life when R.E.M. was the Most Important Band In The World to me, and for them to be relegated to "I used to love those guys" status was indescribably sad. I am not sad about their breakup, because they've basically been dead to me for the last couple of decades.