Five years after the annoying “Around The Sun” R.E.M. returned with an album that proved they weren’t done yet
By Carter Bagley
After their unlucky 13th album “Around The Sun” it seemed that R.E.M. had officially burnt out. With a rich history behind them and a bleak future most fans were done with them and moved on to all the other great bands making music at the time. However Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills knew that they had more in them. They weren’t going to be done yet so they booked a tight recording schedule and producer Jacknife Lee to make another record based on demos they worked on earlier that year. Recorded and created in only three weeks forced the band to have an edge they hadn’t had in years, and thus we had a new fantastic R.E.M. album. “Accelerate” truly is a highlight in their career and considerably better than many of their albums including ones I personally love like “Monster”, “Out of Time”, and “Green”. From the beginning of “Living Well Is The Best Revenge” to the end of “I’m Gonna DJ” they give an energetic and vibrant performance that they haven’t had in well over a decade. It’s paced out wonderfully though as songs like “Hollow Man” and “Until The Day Is Done” are beautifully slower compared to much of the other songs. The lead single “Supernatural Superserious” is catchier than a STD and possibly their greatest song since Bill Berry’s departure and one of the best R.E.M. songs period. It seems almost unreal how proficient they are on this album as it works pretty much on all cylinders. “Hollow Man” is worth mentioning too as it’s slow but manages to be short and expertly written. The chorus is also explosive and catchy and has become among my favorites on the album. “Mr. Richards” is a track that’s very underrated and one I haven’t heard mentioned very often. The band also learned that to they had to shorten up many of the songs and that’s exactly what they did. The pace on this record is incredible as the whole albums plays together perfectly and is a continuous good time. That’s not saying this album isn’t short of flaws however. The longest track on the album titled “Sing For The Submarine” also happens to be the least interesting. The whole time Stipe just makes references to past R.E.M. songs like “Electron Blue”, “High Speed Train”, “It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” or “Feeling Gravity’s Pull”. The fact that a lot of it is just Stipe taking a trip down memory lane rather than crafting a cohesive song coupled with the shift in rhythms at different times makes it difficult to sit through. It’s not entirely bad however and I have heard more annoying on previous albums. In fact, the song on this album that’s worse than it is the next song “Horse To Water” which isn’t bad but the verses are very annoying to sit through and it’s utterly skippable. Besides the last few songs which get kind of annoying the first two thirds are very capable and better than R.E.M. has been in years. “Accelerate” had something to prove for R.E.M. and I’d be damned if I said that it didn’t do it. This is the first time it seems the band really found it’s footing as a three-piece band. It also made a lot of people regain respect for these alternative pioneers and though they were aging they still had something to prove.
Highlights: Living Well Is The Best Revenge, Supernatural Superserious, Hollow Man, Mr. Richards
Lowlights: Sing For The Submarine, Horse To Water, I’m Gonna DJ