Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: R.E.M., Accelerate

Remember when R.E.M. were the cutting edge and people hung on every CD release to see what they would do next?  When their combination of jangle pop music and obscure, tortured lyrics seemed a little dangerous Acceleratebecause they were breaking all the rules?  Well, those days are over and Accelerate isn’t going to bring them back.  However, it’s the most energetic and interesting CD they’ve released in quite some time.  They’re not what they were but they’re making some noise and they’re fun to listen to again.

Accelerate opens with a dynamite one-two punch with “Living Well is the Best Revenge” and “Man-Sized Wreath”.  Singer Michael Stipe is still lost in his self-absobed little world (he’s been having his picture taken with his head painted gold) and his lyrics are as obscure as ever but he’s singing with conviction again.  While the entire lyric of a song may be puzzling, he can spit out lines like “Living Well is the Best Revenge’s” “Baby I’m calling you on” or “Man-Sized Wreath’s”  “Kick it out on the dance floor / Like you just don’t care” with enough intensity and attitude that they become mini-anthems in themselves. 

Two of the real joys of Accelerate are Peter Bucks’s guitars and Mike Mills’ background vocals.  The guitars ring, chime and drive most of the tracks with muscle and hooks.  Mill’s vocals are usually deep in the mix but he has an uncanny ability to perfectly complement both Stipe’s lead vocals and Buck’s guitar.  It’s not always obvious but his singing is often the glue that holds a song together and turns an ordinary song into one you enjoy listening to again and again.

The energy ebbs and flows on Accelerate and some tracks sound as much like attempts to recapture past success as an attempt to come up with something new.  Nevertheless, fans of the R.E.M. of old are likely to celebrate Accelerate as a welcome return to form.


05/06/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

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