Michael Stipe, lead singer of the rock band R.E.M, performs during a concert in Lima IN 2008. The band announced its break up on Wednesday. Reuters

Alternative rock fans might be disappointed to hear that one of the most popular bands of that music genre is breaking up.

After 31 years of churning out hits like Losing My Religion and The One I Love R.E.M. has finally bowed out. In a statement posted on its official Web site on Wednesday, the rock band said that they had decided to call it a day.

To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening, the band said in its posting.

R.E.M. originally comprised singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bass player Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry, who left the band in 1997. The band continued without Berry. R.E.M. released 15 albums including works such as Murmur, Reckoning, Document, Out of Time and Automatic For the People. The band's final album, Collapse Into Now, was released in March of this year.

During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'?, bassist Mike Mills wrote on the R.E.M. site. Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

Mills pointed out that the band had split on good terms.

We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right, wrote Mills.

R.E.M., who were members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, touched millions of fans with their songs about liberal and progressive politics, activism, environmentalism, feminism and human rights causes. Their lasting presence among audiences will live on because of their music, but their songs will last forever because of the messages they conveyed, wrote Joseph Giannone in cinemablend.com

Greg Kot, a music critic, wrote in the Chicago Tribune that besides U2, Nirvana, Radiohead and a few others no other band has had quite as much impact over the last three decades in balancing commercial success with critical acclaim.

R.E.M. was an inspiration to other post-punk bands that fought to make personal, cutting-edge music at a time when MTV was playing million-dollar videos by assembly-line rock and pop acts, Kot added.

Vocalist Michael Stipe said that it was time for the band to walk away.

A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it, Stipe wrote.

We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing, he added.