You knew the day was coming, but it's always a little jarring when it actually happens.
On the one hand, you could argue that they had long since peaked and weren't doing anything particularly 'important' these days. On the other hand, you could argue that they survived their creative valley of Reveal and Around the Sun and had just made two solid records in a row.
But the fact that R.E.M. made it 31 years is pretty cool. They were never the most superlative band in any category, but they challenged themselves and their audiences and they definitely tried a lot of things over the course of their career. I never saw them live, although I was supposed to-- festival got rained/lightning-ed out before they came on stage-- and I never heard the greatest things about their shows. But I do know they put out 5 or 6 of the best records in my lifetime. (Which also raises the point that since we're all about the same exact age as R.E.M., it's weird to think about the end of a band that's existed for basically your entire life but not before.)
I'm saddened by this news, yet I can also see why now was the time for it to end.