R.E.M. far from “Shiny Happy People”

Not everything is sugarcoated candy these days with R.E.M.

Peter Buck, the rock band’s guitarist, was arrested Saturday after allegedly assaulting two crewmembers in the first-class section of a flight from Seattle to London, police told Reuters.

He appeared in a London court Monday morning and was charged with two counts of assault on the crewmembers, criminal damage, being drunk on an aircraft and disobeying an aircraft commander.

He was released on bail of $43,260 and ordered to reappear in court on June 18.

Buck, 44, was reportedly drunk during British Airways Flight 48 at the time of the alleged incident, a police spokesman in London said. Buck, traveling first class, was arrested after allegedly assaulting two cabin crewmembers. He was held in custody at Heathrow Police Station before appearing Monday at Uxbridge Magistrates Court in west London.

“Safety of passengers and crew is paramount. British Airways will not tolerate any threat to that safety,” a British Airways spokesman said.

Buck, through R.E.M.’s U.S. lawyer Bertis Downs, issued a short statement apologizing for the incident.

“I am very sorry for the incident and, of course, very embarrassed about the whole thing,” Buck said in the statement, according to Reuters.

Buck, singer Michael Stipe and bassist Mike Mills are about to begin a promotional tour for their 12th album, Reveal, due out May 15, according to the band’s official Web site. Reveal is the first new album from R.E.M. since 1998’s Up. The band has already released the first single from the album, “Imitation of Life.”

The promotional tour is scheduled to begin with an appearance Thursday on BBC TV’s Top of the Pops, followed by a performance on Sunday, April 29, at the South Africa Freedom Day Concert in London’s Trafalgar Square. Among the 20,000 expected to attend will be Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa. The concert will mark the 7th anniversary of democracy in South Africa.

The promotional trip also includes visits to Milan, Paris, Madrid, Cologne and New York.

The band is scheduled to appear May 15 on Late Show with David Letterman.

The band’s Web site did not make mention of Buck’s arrest or whether it would affect R.E.M.’s promotional tour.

Adding to the confusion, Stipe apparantly loves life in the fast lane.

Stipe nailed a sign outside his house in Athens, Ga., protesting against speed bumps in his neighborhood, The Associated Press reports.

It was “idiotic, selfish and inappropriate” for the neighborhood to push the Athens-Clarke County government to install the speed bumps, read the sign nailed to Stipe‘s house on Hill Street.

Some neighbors reacted by writing replies accusing Stipe of being apathetic to problems with speeding motorists.

“If speed bumps are the only available fast-track solution offered by the city to an obvious community problem, it will not be long before driving or bicycling in Athens is impossible,” Stripe wrote in a letter to the Athens Daily News/Banner-Herald.

Stipe, 41, acknowledged in the letter that his sign “has caused quite a stir,” but hopes it will provoke debate.

“Not that I would say he didn’t have a right to express his opinion. But to put up a sign on the side of one of our historic houses is kind of wacky,” neighbor David Lynn said.