R.E.M.
Collapse Into Now


3.0
good

Review

by Joseph Viney STAFF
March 9th, 2011 | 20 replies | 13,567 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Drifting off, but not fully asleep just yet

The past thirteen years have been strange ones for R.E.M. After dealing with the loss of drummer Bill Berry in 1998 they went on to produce the haunting Up, an album that dealt with faith, loyalty and loss wrapped in inspired use of musical experimentation. 2001’s Reveal carried on that good work and the group seemed on the cusp of a great new era. Internal strife and miscommunication soon reared their ugly head and were largely responsible for the insipid and wholly unmemorable Around The Sun. Desperate to atone, they re-grouped and tried to deliver the best they could with 2009’s Accelerate, a promising but ultimately sub-par effort.

R.E.M. may feel as if they have nothing left to prove, but in the build up to the release of Collapse Into Now they have waged a sustained campaign of promises. In an interview with Rolling Stone the group stated their belief that this is their best since the commercial behemoth that was Automatic For The People. Thems fighting words for many but can they back them up?

Not exactly. Collapse Into Now is an admirable effort but flawed on a number of levels. More closely linked to Accelerate than anything else they’ve released since the turn of the century and perhaps more of a relative to Monster in the overall scheme of things, Collapse Into Now presents a more raw and louder live sound. It’s a sound that suits them, but purists could justifiably point to their talent for utilising the subtleties of their music becoming lost in the mix. The group have harked back to the more memorable songs in their canon, but this can be interpreted as largely derivative in some quarters. Opener “Discoverer” chimes out with a guitar line reminiscent of 1988’s “Finest Worksong”. “Oh My Heart” is somewhat similar to 1998’s “New Test Leper” with its circular melody and folk-laden instrumentation whilst “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter” is in the great tradition of frenetic R.E.M. tracks peppered with stream-of-consciousness vocals that make little or no sense. Of course, R.E.M. cannot be blamed for taking from their more tried and tested sounds and methods.

Stipe’s lyrics, once so insightful and thought-provoking, suffer from some serious lapses throughout. “Hey now, make your breakfast” he says on “Uberlin”, a banal lyric on a song that does not really get moving. There are plenty of moments where Stipe’s many refrains of “hey hey hey” or “huh-uh-uh” can’t help but make you feel as if he was simply struggling for lyrics or couldn’t muster the effort to do it. On “All The Best” he ponders if he has “outstayed my welcome” providing food for thought and perhaps ammunition for his naysayers.

There are some bright moments of invention here and its without doubt an improvement on Accelerate, showing evidence of urgency and a verve that has been missing for some time. “All The Best” is a short, sharp shock of a rocker that gives off a sense of freedom from the always reliable Buck and Mills. “Mine Smell Like Honey” is much in the same vein but begs the question what exactly of Stipe’s smell like honey?! Even more interesting is the album’s closer, “Blue”, with its feedback and static creating a swirl of noise around Stipe’s deadpan and machine-gun delivery, all complemented with a cameo from Stipe’s long-time hero Patti Smith. The album, with its bridge into the past, evokes an image of a band coming full circle and tying up the years with a form of finality. This notion is given weight when “Blue” slides into a reprise of “Discoverer”, giving the listener an idea of the end having a beginning.

The aftermath of this release positions R.E.M. at a crossroads. With this being their last album for Warner Brothers the obvious questions surrounding their future spring up. Will they release albums as an independent entity or will they quietly slip away with this as their swan song? It would certainly be a shame if they were to side with the latter idea. R.E.M. represents the ideal of an old heavyweight fighter; beaten and bruised but with a few more rounds left in them.



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user ratings (162)
Chart.
3.2
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David James Young (4)
Thirty years of R.E.M. in forty minutes....


Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 9th 2011



7322 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Fantastic review, easily the best of yours that I've read so far. I was disappointed by this, I much preferred Accelerate.

Knott-
Emeritus
March 9th 2011



10195 Comments


I don't think anything is missing from that sentence, Dev.

I like that he doesn't make a value judgement on the 3rd part of your post.

AtavanHalen
March 9th 2011



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great work, Joseph.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2011



15576 Comments


awesome review, average album

Digging: The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

mallen-
March 9th 2011



1235 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, like this a bit more than you. Completely agree on the quality of Stipe's lyrics now though.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
March 10th 2011



23801 Comments


I'm still hoping to enjoy this but I'm getting less and less confident that I will every day...

Jonnyborg
March 10th 2011



232 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think this review pretty much sums up the album more or less perfectly.

What does smell like honey?

AtavanHalen
March 11th 2011



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

His. His smell like honey.

theBlackWidow
March 11th 2011



465 Comments


I dig it.

james420
March 11th 2011



200 Comments


On the edge of sleep, I was drifting for half the night
Anxious and restless, pressed down by the darkness
Bound up and wound up so tight

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
September 21st 2011



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

sucks it had to end like this.

AtavanHalen
September 21st 2011



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm actually happy.

20th century collapse into now.

TheVoiceAndTheSnake
September 21st 2011



3663 Comments


They ended on a high note

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
September 21st 2011



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's an average album. There are some good moments (Discoverer, Überlin, It Happened Today) but most
of it just feels out of place and awkward.

AtavanHalen
September 22nd 2011



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Disagree; see my review

valrus
November 19th 2011



43 Comments


I'm pretty happy with this as a last album. Almost seems like a career reprise, in a way, and I think Überlin wouldn't be out of place on Automatic, which is high praise indeed. It would have been unrealistic, sadly, to expect them to go out in an amazing blaze of glory at that point, but a solid "classic REM" sounding album seemed like a fitting end for a band with a lot of classics under their belt.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" is so good.

NationalMidnightStar
December 25th 2012



176 Comments


hey boone if youre reading this they have a tom on R.E.M. in the bargain bin at mckays

qwe3
February 23rd 2014



21355 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

like "Houston" on Accelerate, Discoverer is a true gem in a trough of mediocrity

Pho3nix
June 22nd 2014



44 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

As a last album, I thought this was incredibly average. But maybe that was on par with the course anyway.



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