R.E.M.
Accelerate


3.5
great

Review

by Dave de Sylvia STAFF
May 17th, 2008 | 38 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Eleven alternative pop songs with no excess fat around the edges.

The self-generated press surrounding the release of R.E.M.’s fourteenth album is nothing, in itself, out of the ordinary. Sure, it’s hardly unusual for bands to hark back to the “early days” before they’ve even finished their second album, while by now the members of Metallica must be utterly sick of dropping cryptic and not-so-cryptic hints linking each forthcoming record to …And Justice For All. Yet in the case of Accelerate it’s a little different. For one thing, the vast majority of journalists implicit in the album’s publicity are in agreement that Accelerate is something a little bit different, an altogether ballsier return to their punk roots, or perhaps even more basic a transformation than that. As guitarist Peter Buck noted in a State Magazine interview in January, “this is probably the record we should have made in 1981 when we were young, but […] it was the post punk era and we were doing something else.”

Hyperbole aside, Accelerate is a tidal wave away from the disjointed, insular rock that has plagued their most recent studio attempts- Up, Reveal and Around The Sun. Stipe has replaced his disinterested yowl with a fierce punk snarl, most notably on counter-reactionary diatribe ‘Living Well Is The Best Revenge’ that opens the set, and with it has rediscovered the world around him. His pointed social commentary is particularly revealing in light of the introspection that has defined the last ten years of R.E.M.’s recorded output. Buck and bassist Mike Mills, for their part, appear to be revelling in their new-found freedom to rock, Buck ricocheting tight, melodic lines off studio wingman Scott McCaughey’s razor-sharp chords above Mills’ rumbling bass lines. The heavy, electric organ rumble of album highlight ‘Houston’ evokes a psychedelic, early heavy metal vibe, as well as indulging Buck’s mandolin fetish, while ‘Man-Sized Wreath’ and lead single ‘Supernatural Superserious’ bustle with Beatlesque chords and melodies, the latter particularly reminiscent of the britrock boom that the band partly inspired but were never moved to partake in.

Accelerate’s songs are generally well-constructed, almost to the point of being formulaic, eleven alternative pop songs with no excess fat around the edges. Producer Jacknife Lee, better known for his Grammy-winning hand in U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and for guiding Snow Patrol’s ascent to international stardom, appears to have drilled the band well without constraining the looseness of the performances. Stipe’s lyrics are typically inconsistent. Opener ‘Living Well Is The Best Revenge’ has him in world-beating form, directing clever, pointed attacks upon the forces of conservatism and backwardness the world over, jibing, “all your sad and lost apostles hum my name and flare their nostrils / choking on the bones you toss to them,” before he proudly proclaims: “don't turn your talking points on me / history will set me free / the future's ours.”

However tracks like ‘Until The Day Is Done’ and ‘Mr. Richards,’ a thinly-veiled ode to shamed comedian Michael Richards a.k.a. Kramer from Seinfed, show the opposite side of Stipe. Too vague to be particularly meaningful and not interesting enough in itself, ‘Until The Day Is Done’ boasts sweet twelve-string acoustic guitar melodies, but its doomsday imagery is lamentably ineffective. Stipe teases with vaguely incendiary sentiments like “so hold tight your babies and your guns / forgive us our trespasses, Father and Son” yet never commits to anything more tangible, though one gets the feeling the Republicans are probably to blame. ‘Mr. Richards’ at least attempts to grapple with the complexity of its subject’s racist outburst, and the furore that surrounded it, rather than merely pointing figures but it remains little more than a series of half-finished thoughts. There’s more than a hint of the Noel Gallaghers to the line, “Mr. Richards, your conviction had us cheering in the kitchen,” not least because Gallagher himself used a similar rhyme, and it’s symptomatic of the wider lack of clarity that dogs the song.

Yet for all of the uncharacteristic vitality of the performances, this is R.E.M. and it’s perhaps inevitable that they’d abandon the schtick at some point and disappear above themselves. ‘Sing For The Submarine’ breaks completely with the simplicity of the album and unravels into forced profundity and overblown grandiosity. Sputnikmusic’s own Nick Butler recently queried, “remember the good old days, when indie used to be all about intimacy"” While R.E.M. has never been the most intimate of operations, they’ve at least been gifted with enough self-awareness to realise their limitations- hell, Accelerate is based entirely upon that premise. That ‘Sing For The Submarine’ sounds so laboured, even next to Accelerate’s more forgettable numbers, leaves a slightly rotten taste for the remainder of another otherwise triumphant disc.



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user ratings (335)
Chart.
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 30th 2008


3106 Comments


Awesome review, I'ma feature this, and:

Sputnikmusic’s own Nick Butler recently queried, “remember the good old days, when indie used to be all about intimacy?”

lol

TimeToTurnTheTide
March 30th 2008


208 Comments


best review I have read on here for a long time. End.

Mikesn
Emeritus
March 30th 2008


3708 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Some broken code at the end of the third paragraph. Other than that, great job. I pretty much agree, more or less.

Electric City
Emeritus
March 30th 2008


15762 Comments


It's nice to see some legitimately awesome reviews every once in a while.

Iam138
March 30th 2008


76 Comments


I will check this one out.This Message Edited On 03.30.08

pulseczar
March 30th 2008


2385 Comments


You misspelled Seinfeld yeah yeah yeah yeah yes you did!

Captain North
March 31st 2008


6793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Where the hell did Stipes' singing go? Now he just rants. Thats shit.

Captain North
March 31st 2008


6793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Okay, maybe I shouldn't comment before I've finished listening to the album. Still haven't finished actually, but I'm far enough in to see he does still sing. Sorry.



First two songs suck though. Hollow Man and Houston are beautiful but ridiculously short. At the moment thats my biggest bug with this.

Iai
Emeritus
March 31st 2008


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

oh what



All the amazing things I have said and you quote that nonsense!

Mirror.Circuit
March 31st 2008


223 Comments


Great review, I think I should check this out.
Only thing I noticed was

"its subject’s racist outburst, and the furore that surrounded it"

That should be furor, unless you're referring to the tiny east coast town.

Mirror.Circuit
March 31st 2008


223 Comments


Actually I thought maybe you referring to the ancient Greek township.
haha.

But oh.
haha.
Well never mind then!
Fantastic review.

tcaporale
March 31st 2008


177 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haven't heard the album yet, it doesn't come out physically until tomorrow...I've only heard "Living Well" and "Supernatural", both of which are excellent.

joshuatree
Emeritus
March 31st 2008


3741 Comments


meh album, sweet review though.

AtavanHalen
March 31st 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, not sure if I completely agree with it just yet. Need to listen to this more.

CreamCrazy
March 31st 2008


731 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Awesome album, too bad I can't rate it... stupid Sputnik

Mikesn
Emeritus
March 31st 2008


3708 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

you have to wait until tomorrow

CreamCrazy
March 31st 2008


731 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

one disadvantage of the album coming out in the UK a day earlier than the US ^_^;;

Zebra
Moderator
April 1st 2008


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was scared to listen to this but it's actually a really good album. It may not have as many strong tracks as their 80's material but this is certainly an improvement from there last couple of dreadful albums.

Captain North
April 2nd 2008


6793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Except for the fact that it is, in some ways, a step down. Instead of continuing to evolve they've reverted backwards to a sound more people liked, simply because it was what they were used to.

Captain North
April 2nd 2008


6793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Okay, its taking a few listens to get into..its annoying how the best songs are so much shorter than the bad songs.



Houston for next single!



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