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R.E.M. Accelerate – Review

The R.E.M. story in a nutshell; group of college kids get together, invent College Rock, storm through the 80’s with 6 brilliant albums, hit commercial pay dirt at the start of the 90’s and are briefly the biggest band in the world. Then, it’s lost and it ain’t ever coming back. Their work gets progressively less interesting, reaching a nadir with 2004’s ‘Around the Sun’, the aural equivalent to an IKEA table.

Thing is, there’s a fair degree of truth in that. There is also the unmistakable fear that, well, there is no fear any more. It’s just another R.E.M. album. Nobody cares. And that has got to hurt when you spent fifteen years being vital.

So, they are back with Accelerate. They haven’t whetted appetites much with their standard post-‘Monster’ interview templates (“sorry the last one was a bit shit, this one is much better”) and the question is; does the world really need a new R.E.M. album?

First impression? You’ll feel a warm glow of recognition if you love the Pageant-era R.E.M. Think These Days/Begin the Begin style rockers and you won’t be a million miles off. A couple of absolute belting pop songs are in here too, notably first single ‘Supernatural Superserious’ (either the best title for a song I’ve ever heard or one so annoying we should be allowed to punch the author’s ringpiece repeatedly, I’m not sure yet.). Nothing as great or plain weird as Flowers of Guatemala or Swan Swan H, but to be honest, I just don’t think they are capable of writing tunes like that any more. And fair enough, they are late forties millionaires, not young guys in a van with the world to conquer and so much talent they could give it away to tramps instead of change.

Not as good as LRP/Document, obviously, but it’s apparent listening to ‘Accelerate’ that they realised this could be the last shot if they produced another effort like Around the Sun. Games raised across the shop. Stipey sings in that high growl last heard on ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’! Peter Buck has been listening to the Dead Kennedys again! We get great harmonies from Mike and basslines that sound as though he thought about them this time!

This is clearly a band who’ve made more great albums in the past than they will in the future, but this is as good as it could have been and well worth a place with their old ones (though if you are an Out of Time/Automatic fan only, you won’t like it much, but you probably stopped buying after ‘Monster’ anyway.)

So, if nothing else, this gives the old buggers the right to make another and, even better, still expect it to cause a ripple on release. And 28 years in, I think that will do.

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5 Responses

  1. I think that was one of the most entertaining reviews I’ve ever read. Kudos.

  2. Hey there’s more where that came from, tell your friends.

  3. Why thank you kind sir!

  4. R.E.M will always have a place in my heart and Im always interested in what they do,but you are right its not “vital”anymore like it used to be.I suppose they can be forgiven for that,given all they have delivered over the years(got to disagree about “automatic..”though,I loved that album.
    However,now I fear they really are in”Pylomath ” and “cant get there from here”.

  5. Hey, I love Automatic too! I even like New Adventures!

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