R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck says a handful of the 15 new songs the band has written have been shaped by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Writing in his column in Q magazine, Buck says, "the new song

R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck says a handful of the 15 new songs the band has written have been shaped by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Writing in his column in Q magazine, Buck says, "the new songs, unsurprisingly, can be divided into two categories; those written before 11 September and those written after. The summer songs are pretty poppy and uptempo, while the later ones are kind of dark and complex. Maybe there's a record in there somewhere but [bassist] Mike [Mills] and I will keep waiting, if only to figure out where we're going."

Buck says R.E.M. made a conscious decision to play live in the weeks following the attacks, "not so much to raise money but more to focus on our own lives, on what it is we do. We're musicians after all, and we thought performing in public would be kind of a sign of solidarity as well as being fun."

Among these shows were the band's first performance in its Athens, Ga., hometown since 1992, an appearance at Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit concerts outside San Francisco, and a headlining performance at the finale of the Groundwork 2001 benefit series in Seattle.

Says Buck of the latter, "the show had one major drawback: we had to follow Pearl Jam. Let's face it, they sell more records than us, rock more than us, and are local heroes. We spent all week trying to convince them to let us open but to no avail. In the end, and prompted mostly by fear, we played a good set and acquitted ourselves well."

The next night, R.E.M. played an impromptu club show at Seattle's Showbox, joined by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder on several songs, including the group's mid-'80s chestnut "Begin the Begin." Buck reports, "as I looked around at the other guys I remember thinking, 'no matter how old I get, I never want to stop doing this.'"

Buck gave no word when the group might put some of the new songs to tape, but in the meantime, look for the track "All the Right Friends" on the Warner Bros. soundtrack to the film "Vanilla Sky," due Tuesday (Dec. 11). As previously reported, it's a newly recorded version of a track that dates back to R.E.M.'s pre-recording repertoire.