With the news that REM have gone their own separate ways, we can look at their discography in its entirety — and, in particular, at how their final album Collapse into Now (with its retrospectively portentous cover shot of Michael Stipe waving goodbye) fits into their body of work, the highlights of which have been collected in the box set Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982 – 2011, out today. We really rather like Collapse into Now — it’s definitely better than Around the Sun and Accelerate, and makes for a worthy conclusion to a fine career. But it also got us thinking about bands that really went out with a bang, and so we’ve pulled together a selection of our very favorite final albums. Suggestions are, as ever, welcome. (Just a caveat, though: since the idea is to look at albums that ended relatively lengthy careers, we’re not counting artists who only made one or two albums — so no Closer, Spiderland, Loveless, etc.)
Roxy Music — Avalon
While regular readers might have noticed that we worship rabidly at the altar of Brian Eno, we also have a soft spot for Roxy Music’s post-Eno lounge art, and although they hit something of a slump after Country Life, their final record was a belated return to their best. There’s “More Than This,” of course, and the title track, both of which deserve places in the pantheon of the band’s best songs. But even apart from its two finest moments, Avalon has a stately elegance, and still gets a regular workout on the Flavorpill stereo.