The New R.E.M. Accelerates Past Its Release Date To The Web

Mar 17th, 2008 // 10 Comments

accelerate.jpgARTIST: R.E.M.
TITLE: Accelerate
RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2008
WEB DEBUT: March 15, 2008

ONE-LISTEN VERDICT: The first thing that needs to be said, although this certainly isn’t the first place where its been said, is that it’s much better than Reveal or Around The Sun. The more aggressive sound is appreciated, actually compelling you to listen to the finish without an urge to really slam the skip button, possibly thanks to the heavily compressed sound that producer Jackknife Lee is known for. That being said, should the terms “return to form” or “classic R.E.M.” be tossed around? No, of course not. Anyone who is expecting a 2008 version of Life’s Rich Pageant will be sorely disappointed, but Accelerate‘s certainly a solid modern rock album, and probably will fall near the top of the bottom third of their catalog, if you’re into ranking those sort of things.

At very least, it’s nice to hear a big, strong opener: “Living Well…” sounds great loud, and R.E.M. sounds like a band with purpose. Michael Stipe’s lyrics are largely fine throughout–although there are some real clunkers–and he’s gotten slightly better at being cryptic again, which to me is a welcome turn. My favorite part of the album was probably hearing Mike Mills through the speakers, track after track. To me, “Man Sized Wreath” and “Supernatural Superserious” are saved by his performances and there were numerous occasions where I was so thankful for his backing vocals that it felt as if they were the aspect of R.E.M. I was most nostalgic for. “Houston” sounds like a Automatic For The People b-side; “Horse To Water” features an angrier R.E.M. than I might have thought possible; and “I’m Gonna DJ” is a bad idea somewhat well executed.

Then it’s over. I knew the album was short, but the end caught me by surprise.

And then–and maybe this is a sad, back-handed compliment for a band with a great catalog–I started over from the beginning. I actually wanted to listen to a recent R.E.M. disc…again, and without being disappointed or depressed about “fallen heroes” or “Stevie Wonder-style depressing career turns”. Accelerate‘s not going to be part of the race for “best R.E.M. album”, but I’ll thank them for not making it another contender for the worst.

  1. Rob Murphy

    Nice review, Dan.

    Having never really been an R.E.M. fanboy, I’ve always been much more likely to enjoy R.E.M. material that *does not* sound like “classic R.E.M.” How does this record compare against Monster or “The Great Beyond”?

  2. Anonymous

    Every new album of theirs is supposed to be the album that R.E.M “brings back the rock”. They haven’t really rocked since their second album “Reckoning”, so I’m doubting this album will be any different. Oh well, maybe it will inspire another generation of high schoolers to say they were listening to R.E.M before anyone!!!

  3. Dan Gibson

    @pantycrickets: I mean, it doesn’t sound anything like “Reckoning” for certain, but it does rock in the same sense that Snow Patrol discs “rock” on occasion.

    More so than any U2 album in recent memory at very least.

  4. Dan Gibson

    @Rob Murphy: If the context isn’t “classic R.E.M.”, you’re vastly more likely to enjoy it than someone expecting a band in its twenties. It’s less self conscious than “Monster”, which I appreciated, but there’s no track as immediate (to me) as “The Great Beyond”.

  5. Anonymous

    @Dan Gibson: as rockin’ as Daughtry?!?!

  6. Anonymous

    “I started over from the beginning. I actually wanted to listen to a recent R.E.M. disc…again, and without being disappointed or depressed”

    Interesting. Usually the best part about listening to a new R.E.M. release is the overwhelming urge one gets to pop in Reckoning or Fables of the Reconstruction afterward.

  7. Anonymous

    @Gumboots: I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a good or bad thing.

  8. jt.ramsay

    I feel like it’s New Adventures: Part Deux. The thing that disappointed me was that the guitar sound is so samey throughout the record.

  9. Harvey Birdman

    They sound like they wrote this with a drummer instead of the soggy protools sound of the last two albums. I wonder how they found Jacknife Lee – are there Bloc Party fans in R.E.M.?

    Also, they were great at their SXSW ACL taping (score!)

  10. HomefrontRadio

    ” possibly thanks to the heavily compressed sound that producer Jackknife Lee is known for. “

    So that means undynamic, aimed at I-Pod earbud quality, and clips-per-minute in the 500 range? Yeah, that’ll win the kids back!

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