Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I first "discovered" REM back in 1991, when my folks and I were watching Saturday Night Live. They were the musical guest, promoting their "breakthrough" album OUT OF TIME. My Mom went out and bought that record (on cassette tape), thus beginning a long love of REM. This is contrary to most REM fans. See, REM started out as a popular college band--that got "big" and sold out. Slowly, the band became more and more "pop" and less "indie-college-radio." To regain street-cred with their old audience, they put out NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI in 1996. That was the last REM album my Mom bought. In 1998, after the band's original drummer Bill Berry left, they put out UP (a really good techno-ish record). That was the last time I bought/listened to a new REM record.
Since then, they've put out two records...and I could care less. The band just seemed to be going through "the motions." Every few years put out a record, tour...repeat. Then I starting reading about how "REM was back." How the new record was loud, bombastic, catchy, and good. Then Little Steven played the band's new single "Supernatural Superserious." And it was really good.
Unlike previous efforts, ACCELERATE is a loud, raucous REM album...like we haven't seen since 1994's MONSTER. Sure, there are the obligatory acoustic/singer-songwriter-y songs ("Hollow Man" and "Until the Day is Done") but for the most part, ACCELERATE is a hard-charging electric guitar record. REM's always been a little "folky" you could say--with the major exceptions being MONSTER and UP, and now ACCELERATE. And that's just fine with me. I think this sort of formula shake-up is just what the band needed.
"Supernatural Superserious," is probably the best REM single since 1992. Like most REM songs, I have little to no idea what this song is about...but damn is it good. Catchy, with a fantastic bit of backing vocals (a bit of Beach Boys aping, like on OUT OF TIME)...with some awesome fucking guitar. The Beatle-esque "Mr. Richards" and the titular track "Accelerate" are also excellent additions to REM's songbook.
ACCELERATE is quick and dirty (only 35 minutes long), and only stumbles on the longer "slow burners." Songs like "Sing for the Submarine" and "Until the Day is Done" sound too much like earlier works ("Try Not to Breathe" and/or "Nightswimming"). Had these songs been left off, the album would have run much too short...but they still feel like heavy lead shoes compared to the lightning fast, hard charging rest of the record. Oh well.
Much has been made of the political content of ACCELERATE, and on some tracks ("Living Well is the Best Revenge" and the apocalyptic "I'm Gonna DJ" (which by the way rips off Blur's "Song 2")) it's more apparent than others. Maybe it's the mindless head-bobber in me, but I really didn't notice this aspect of the album. But it is REM, so there are probably endless layers. Overall ACCELERATE is great return to form by one of my all time favorite bands.
Jason gives ACCELERATE a "B+"