Review of the album that brought R.E.M. into the 21st Century
By Carter Bagley
By the time the Twenty-First Century rolled around, R.E.M. were not the same band whatsoever. Their sales also reflected that as their previous two albums sold much less than 1994’s “Monster”. They were still interested in making albums however and they haven’t been hurting for money for decades; their core fanbase was also still strong enough to warrant their continuation. So they churned out their twelfth studio album in 2001 titled “Reveal” and the end product we received is not nearly as stellar as what the band previously gave us. Michael Stipe is missing that edge to his songwriting and no longer delivered those evocative lyrics he once penned. The drum machine is still prevalent which isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s just the album lacks a sense of effort and genuinity that less electronic instrumentation would’ve given. There is some definite strengths though and it’s no doubt miles better than some of the other dumpster fires we got in the year 2001 (Smash Mouth, Creed, and Nickelback come to mind). Though when an innovative rock band hands you holy grail after holy grail of alternative albums for years it’s very disappointing to hear something that’s just– okay. They still have a never ending knack for melody and catchy performances but the songs themselves just have a dull meaning. Many of the songs on this record are nice easily listening and sung and played very expertly but the lyrics and the inspiration just aren’t there. A big example of this is the song “Beat A Drum” which on shallow listening is nice and pretty but after further inspection you realize the lyrics are amateur and cringeworthy. Many of the songs are pretty decent like the opening track “The Lifting” along with others like “She Just Wants To Be, “Chorus And The Ring”, and “I’ve Been High”. The problem with some of the songs though is if they were under 4 minutes they’d be perfectly enjoyable in a way that Weezer’s “Green Album” was. That album paled in comparison to Weezer’s earlier albums but the songs were short and sweet and easy listening pop. Though on “Reveal” R.E.M. extends songs like “Chorus And The Ring” and “Saturn Return” to a bloated four plus minutes. “She Just Wants To Be” even goes on for five and a half minutes which is way too long for a song that’s simply listenable. They must’ve thought that the album was on the same caliber as their earlier songs and we wouldn’t mind if the songs were longer. “Man On The Moon” is five minutes but no one cared because it’s an outstanding song. Even a song on this album “I’ll Take The Rain” is nearly 6 minutes but it fits in fine because it’s one of the best songs on the album. With that song they crafted an 80’s sounding perfectly performed and written ballad that could sit easily among most of R.E.M.’s albums. There are couple other saving graces on this album that force it from falling flat completely. “Imitation Of Life” may be the best song on the album and it’s vibrant and shows the aging band still had energy in them and had hope in their future. Other songs like “Summer Turns To High” and the album’s big single “All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star)” are also very enjoyable pop rock songs that I return to every now and then. They didn’t ever burn out like some bands, as this album still has greatness in it somewhere, they were just misguided and lacked inspiration that they previously had. The whole albums ends with the cheesy and the abysmally written “Beachball” which makes me wonder exactly what they were going for. “Reveal” concludes as a very disappointing and lacking album but shows real moments of beauty and melody within it’s runtime. I’d say if you’re a big R.E.M. fan you’ll find enjoyment in it to some extent. Other than that, looking at all the other fantastic albums that came out the same year like The Strokes “Is This It”, The Shins “Oh, Inverted World”, and Ozma “Rock and Roll Part Three” I don’t understand why a regular person would’ve bothered with this album.
Highlights: All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star), Imitation Of Life, Summer Turns To High, I’ll Take The Rain
Lowlights: Disappear, Saturn Return, Beat A Drum, Beachball