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For years, R.E.M. promised that their next album would be a rocker, an oath to fans that perhaps made sense during the early '90s, when they were exploring the pastoral fields of Out of Time and the gloomy folk of Automatic for the People, but in the years after Bill Berry's 1997 departure, the desire of longtime fans for the group to rock again was merely a code word for the wish that R.E.M. would sound like a band again. Apart from a few fleeting moments -- "The Great Beyond," their "Man in the Moon" re-write for the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic, Man in the Moon; "Bad Day," a mid-'80s outtake revived for a greatest-hits album -- R.E.M. not only didn't sound like a band, but they seemed at odds with themselves and their very strengths, culminating in the amorphous, mummified Around the Sun, a record so polished and overworked it didn't sound a bit like R.E.M., not even like the art-pop outfit the band turned into after Berry's retirement. It was a situation so dire that the band recognized the need for corrective steering, so they stripped themselves down to bare-bones for 2008's Accelerate. In every way Accelerate is the opposite of Around the Sun: at 36 minutes, it's defiantly lean, it's heavy on Peter Buck's guitars and Mike Mills backing vocals, its songs don't drift, they attack. Even the songs constructed on acoustics feel like they're rockers, maybe because they hearken back to the eerie, ramshackle grace of "Swan Swan H" whose riff echoes through both "Houston" and "Until the Day Is Done." This is not the only time that R.E.M. deliberately refers to the past on Accelerate, but reverential self-reference is the whole idea of this project: they're embracing their past, building upon the legacy and the very sound of such underground rock landmarks as Lifes Rich Pageant and Document. Not that this album could be mistaken for an exhumed classic from the '80s: Michael Stipe's lyrics are forthright and never elliptical, and the same could be said about the music, as it's sonically streamlined and precise, hallmarks of a veteran band. One of the benefits of being veterans is knowing how to create a record this focused, and Accelerate benefits greatly from its concentrated blast of guitars, as the brevity of the album makes R.E.M. seem vital even as they're dredging up the past. By no longer denying the jangle and pop that provided a foundation for the group's success, they sound like a band again. Such praise dangerously threatens to oversell Accelerate, however, suggesting that the album has either the unearthly mystique of Murmur or the ragged enthusiasm of Reckoning when it has neither. This is a careful, studied album from a band that knew they were on the brink of losing their audience and, worse, their identity. Accelerate finds R.E.M. attempting to reconnect with their music, with what made them play rock & roll in the first place, instead of methodically resurrecting a faded myth. They reconnect handsomely, creating an album the can stand next to work from their peers, like Dinosaur Jr.'s exceptional comeback Beyond and Sonic Youth's casually vital Rather Ripped (whose "Incinerate" reverberates in the dissonant open-ended "Accelerate"). As comebacks go, that's relatively modest, but the very modesty of Accelerate is what makes it such a successful rebirth as R.E.M. no longer denies what they were or what they are, and, in doing so, they offer a glimpse of what they could be once again.
Performance CreditsR.E.M. Primary Artist
Scott McCaughey Musician
Peter Buck Group Member
Mike Mills Bass Guitar,Vocals
Bill Rieflin Musician
Michael Stipe Vocals,Group Member
Jarrod Nestibo Concert Master
Owen Lewis Concert Master
Technical CreditsPeter Buck Composer
William S. Burroughs Author
Mike Mills Composer
Michael Stipe Composer,Packaging
Bertis Downs Advisor
Sam Bell Engineer
Chris Bilheimer Packaging,Office Coordinator
Amy Hairston Office Coordinator
Tom McFall Engineer
George Herbert Author
Mercer Brockenbrough Davis Office Coordinator
Sarah Petit Frierson Office Coordinator
Jacknife Lee Audio Production
Harry Houdini Author
David Bell Office Coordinator
Accelerate based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
With musical nods to several key REM albums, "Automatic for the People" " New Adventures in Hi-Fi" and "Document", the band get's back to what it always did best, make jangle rock as only they can. They are simply the best band in the USA, and our best export abroad. They scaled back the studio gimicktry and played everything short and sweet at jet speed or as they prefer it: Accelerate. "Man Size Wreath", "Hollow Man", and "Living Well is the Best Revenge" are standouts. Also for completest's the limited version has a mp3 song "Red Head Walking", cool fun.
R.E.M. deliver a tight, quick, powerfully rocking album with songs such as "Accelerate," "Supernatural, Superserious," "Hollow-Man," as well as the haunting sadness of a song like "Houston" which captures the sadness and challenges of faith that a Hurricane Katrina survivor feels, waking up in Texas, far away from home. Stipe's lyrics speak towards the future, and the guitars fire with lively energy and memorable echoes. I appreciate the care and energy put into this album, especially after some of the lower points of the R.E.M. catalogue in the last few albums. R.E.M. is back, and they are bringing some of their best songs since "Automatic for the People."