Georgia-born R.E.M. is no Southern belle, spurning heartland for heartfelt in their music and lyrics. Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Bill Berry and Peter Buck played what they liked and liked what they played, forging a sound that was modern-traditional and an early marker in alternative rock development. Touring madmen, the band finally pushed the limit with the 1988 'Green' tour, forcing a six-year hiatus to regenerate in-studio. Their 1994 outing for 'Monster' was a monster success, despite multiple health crises that left only Buck unscathed, and the band was on the ball with 'New Material for Hi-Fi' in '96. 1997 saw the amicable departure of Berry, who'd beaten a brain aneurysm on-tour in '95, and R.E.M.'s resolution to regroup as a threesome. Like the waves in a pebble-dashed puddle, R.E.M.'s popularity spreads inexorably from the source; the band hasn't pandered or postured to attract fans and, quite the opposite, has lent a hand to newer groups. From rock to soft, more pensive than dark, R.E.M. continues to write and tour, and Stipe, Mills and Buck pursue parallel interests on their own time.