R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now

So, this record came out this past Monday, and given my previous mention of it here on the oft-neglected blog. I figure I should review it or something. Just a short one mind you.

I LIKE POO! IT STICKS LIKE GLUE! TO MY SHOE! I FEEL LIKE AN ALLIGATOR? No, those aren't really the lyrics.

Would you be surprised to find out that I quite like it? No. Well prepare to not be surprised, because what I’m about to say is not very surprising. I quite like it!

The album opens with the positively strident lead single Discoverer. Jangled fuzzy guitars reminiscent – though not derivative – of 1994’s Monster. It carries the energy from Accelerate over, but has a slightly broader sound. This turns out to be true of most of these new tracks.

Überlin is damned pretty, with of Michael Stipe’s best vocal melodies in years. Faint echoes of Electron Blue from Around the Sun. Oh My Heart is a direct follow-up to Accelerate‘s Houston, and reflects lyrically and musically on New Orleans, one of the locations this album was recorded. Mandolins and accordion ring out in soft melancholic reflection. It’s good to see the softer, slower songs make a welcome return.

Rockier numbers like Mine Smell Like Honey, show a light-hearted and melodic sensibility that R.E.M. haven’t really toyed with for a while, while Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter is a straight-up garage-rock tune.

The album closes with Blue, which sees Stipe reciting some abstract personal poetry over Country Feedback-esque textural guitar squall, with occasional interjections sung by one Patti Smith. Then, somehow, they have the balls to seamlessly morph into a full-blown reprise of Discoverer. It’s a strong way to end the album, even if it’s less cohesive as a whole than the use of this technique might suggest.

If there’s a negative here, it lies in Jacknife Lee’s production style. It’s fairly loud and unrelenting, even in places where it really oughtn’t be. This style worked better for Accelerate than it does here on Collapse Into Now. Seems like they kept the recording style rough and ready, with super-saturated guitars, vintage-sounding reverb, and a high level of compression on everything. It does suck the dynamics out of proceedings, but such is the way of modern recording.

So there you have it folks. This here long-player is a pretty far out collection of heady grooves and heavy vibes. It’s not groundbreaking, it’s not a revelation, it’s R.E.M. making good on the promise of Accelerate. I think you should pay money for it and then listen to it.

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