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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

8. R.E.M.: Accelerate

I was so proud to be an R.E.M. fan when Accelerate was released in 2008. Is this album their best? Not at all...and by a pretty good distance. It's just that, even though the band steered clear of pinning a label on the sound of Accelerate, the hype about R.E.M.'s return to their old sound surfaced prior to its release. And so, the wait was on...was it true? Would R.E.M.'s new album be a departure from their recent, rather underwhelming work? I was skeptical, because U2 had released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb a few years earlier under the guise that it was a rock album ("It's taken us twenty years...but this is our first rock album" -Bono, from the DVD documentary U2 and 3 Songs). U2 are one of my favorite bands, and my goal is to keep things positive in my posts, but it was false advertising. Atomic Bomb was not a rock album. I count about two and a half songs worth of "rock," thank you very much. So, based on R.E.M.'s previous three albums, Up (1998), Reveal (2001), and Around the Sun (2004), and the disappointment of believing U2's earlier hype, I was preparing for más decepción.

The band, themselves, were not happy with their previous record, Around the Sun, going so far as to admit that "if [they made] another bad record, it's over." However, R.E.M. had delivered the goods when Accelerate hit the record stores! Right out of the gate, "Living Well is the Best Revenge" reminds R.E.M. fans of what once was (circa 1986-1987). "Man-Sized Wreath" and the album's first single, "Supernatural Superserious", would fit perfectly amongst the songs of Green from 1988. "Hollow Man" follows with verses reminiscent of Out of Time (1991) or Automatic for the People (1992) and a chorus that takes the listener back even further. The album lags a bit after the first four songs (though the songs "Accelerate", "Until the Day is Done", and "Horse to Water" should also be given a round of applause), but Accelerate, the album, satisfied me, a big R.E.M. fan who'd felt something was missing after drummer, Bill Berry, left the band in 1997.

I'm a fan of several bands who have been plugging away for twenty to thirty years (U2 and The Cure spring to mind). Naturally, people grow, band-members change, dynamics change, goals change, and, inevitably, the music changes. Because I'm one who's steeped in nostalgia, I often hold onto that original sound...the sound that drew me in years and years ago...and I'm sometimes (more often than not) disappointed with new music from experienced artists. R.E.M.'s Accelerate is an album that did not disappoint. They tried hard to get back to the sounds that earned them a huge devoted fan base, and I feel they really succeeded. Now, hopefully the recently released Collapse Into Now can grow on me. Here's "Living Well is the Best Revenge" live from Austin City Limits.

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