Leaders of the ’80s college-rock underground who grew into glammy ’90s alternative superstars, R.E.M. followed their own offbeat muse. In the synthesizer-drenched New Wave era, the Athens, GA, band wielded arpeggiated guitars indebted to jangly folk and ’60s garage rock, and stately mandolin drove their biggest pop and rock hit, 1991’s “Losing My Religion,” while grunge was bubbling up. The group—vocalist Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry—played their first show in April 1980, at a birthday party held in a crumbling church. From there, the quartet became a tireless touring machine and signed with I.R.S. Records, which released the band’s beloved 1983 debut LP, Murmur. R.E.M.’s sound evolved as the decade progressed—Stipe’s vocals grew from a mysterious mumble into an empathetic croon, and Buck’s guitars became louder and more aggressive—and as the group became more popular, they became more experimental. Their commercial high points, 1991’s orchestral tour de force Out of Time and the next year’s somber Automatic for the People, eschewed the typical guitar-bass-drums configuration. After Berry left in 1997, the remaining trio dabbled in Beach Boys-esque pop, ambient synth soundscapes, and percolating electronic rock. R.E.M. closed out their career in 2011 with the stellar, eclectic swan song Collapse Into Now; they broke up that year and have steadfastly refused to reunite since—a very in-character move for this famously iconoclastic band.