Listening to “R.E.M.: Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage, 1982-2011” brought back a heck of a lot of great memories!! A heck of a lot!!!

R.E.M. on its ‘Collapse’: There were hints

In retrospect, the picture of R.E.M. on the Collapse Into Now CD jacket with Michael Stipe waving should’ve been the first clue the group was saying goodbye.

R.E.M. surprised the rock world in September with the announcement of its disbanding, but singer Stipe, bassist Mike Mills and guitarist Peter Buck went into the making of Collapse Into Now, released in March, with the idea it would be their final album. Mills says several of the album’s songs offered lyrical hints of the coming news.

“Everybody missed them because nobody expected that any band in their right mind would break up without some sort of tragedy befalling them,” says Mills, 52. “But that’s not the way we do things.”

On Tuesday, the group releases R.E.M.: Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage, 1982-2011, a 40-song retrospective that encompasses the group’s early recordings for I.R.S. Records, as well as later work for Warner Bros. In addition to career-defining hits such as Losing My Religion, The One I Love and Everybody Hurts, the compilation also contains what almost surely are the final new tracks from the band that formed 31 years ago in Athens, Ga.

“It was absolutely unplanned and perhaps unconscious, but the three songs represent three very important components of what made R.E.M. a little bit unique in the first place,” says Stipe, 51.

Mills calls the brief A Month of Saturdays, which came out of the sessions for the 2008 album Accelerate, “whimsical and goofy.” Buck, 54, had toyed with elements of Hallelujah since the mid-’80s but never completed it. “The song is dark and difficult and not easy but ultimately kind of transformative,” Stipe says.

Then there’s the melancholy We All Go Back to Where We Belong. The band has released two black-and-white videos for the song, one featuring Kirsten Dunst, the other poet/performance artist John Giorno.

“It’s a beautiful, midtempo rocker like we do so well,” Mills says. “All of them lyrically relate in some way to this closing full circle of what R.E.M. was.”

Stipe hopes Part Lies can serve the same role for the next generation of R.E.M. fans that David Bowie’s 1976 Changesonebowie collection did for him.

“He had been quoted by my heroes from (legendary New York punk club) CBGB’s as one of their inspirations, so I bought the record having no real knowledge of what or who David Bowie was,” Stipe says. “It provided for me a template for how to put together a retrospective, how to put together a record that could interest someone in exploring further what it is that we were.”

The group’s members have already started moving into new roles. Buck started a tour last week with singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding and the Minus 5. Mills recently recorded a duet for a Farmer Jason children’s album and plans to tour Europe with Chris Stamey next year, performing live versions of ’70s power-pop band Big Star’s Third album. Stipe made an unannounced appearance Thursday on The Colbert Report.

Long-term plans are hazier. “Now I’m a former pop star,” Stipe says. “I don’t really know what I’m going to do from here.”

R.E.M. archival projects, such as the 25th anniversary reissues with bonus material that have come out the past few years, likely will continue. Document, which came out in 1987 and featured It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), would be the next album due for that treatment.

“We’ll continue to work with (the record company) to make those as fun and cool and classy as possible,” Mills says.

But nearly two months after announcing that they’d no longer make music together, the members of the R.E.M. still feel good about their decision. “When you can control your own destiny, it’s a rare gift,” Mills says. “The fact that we could choose to do this at this time and in this manner is something that we’re grateful for (and) felt we should take advantage of.”