The three-legged dog years: All R.E.M.'s post-Bill Berry albums ranked

Follow the meanderings of the three-legged dog on their final five albums

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It's hard to imagine a rock group more devoted to one another than R.E.M.. Though Athens' finest broke up in 2011, repeatedly insisting that no reunion would ever happen, in 2016 guitarist Peter Buck told The Guardian, "Technically, the band broke up...But we didn’t really. We’re just not making records or touring." So, they're hanging out together? The closeness of these four men seems to run deeper than just being in a rock band together.

This is why the greatest disruption in their career came in 1997 when drummer Bill Berry left the band. For most bands, drummers especially are interchangeable, but R.E.M. were never the same without Berry. R.E.M. had vowed to break up if any member left the band, but Berry told his bandmates that he would not quit if it would be the end of R.E.M., so they continued with his blessing, but in a state they never expected to find themselves in.

Michael Stipe famously remarked on MTV, "Mike and Peter, as R.E.M., are we still R.E.M.? I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog. It just has to learn how to run differently." Stipe's usual way with words perfectly summed up the uncertainty with which R.E.M. would be going forward.

Ranking R.E.M.'s post-Bill Berry albums

R.E.M. sounded uncertain on these five albums, and that uncertainty hit its nadir in 2004 with Around The Sun, the band's worst-received album (though I like it... more on that later...) But this gave R.E.M. a new sense of purpose, as they set out to prove they still had it. Had Around The Sun not happened, or been better received, that would've been their swansong. The writing was on the wall, the end was nigh, but only if they could go out on a high.

The final two albums were a triumph because they allowed R.E.M. to go out in style after the previous fifteen years had been quite a rollercoaster for the boys and their fans.