Talk about a low point.
Michael Stipe has said that the three-piece R.E.M. was at its most feral and difficult during the recording of Around the Sun, which came three years after the low-key, unmemorable Reveal. Clearly, the band had said all it needed to say and music had moved on, but R.E.M. was not ready to follow the retirement path of former drummer Bill Berry just yet.
One wishes they had after hearing this release. While it has its moments - a band as great as R.E.M. is incapable of producing a complete dud - it is by far the most emotionless and professional (read: boring) in the band's discography.
Much like Reveal, the music is professionally produced and lacks real hooks, melodies and emotion. A few moments rise out, most notably the opener "Leaving New York," which uses unexpected chord changes to great effect in Stipe's love letter to his second hometown (as he puts it). The jaunty "Wanderlust" and "Final Straw" are other highlights. To avoid is rapper Q-Tip's forgettable guest spot in "The Outsiders."
R.E.M. would rebound with their next disc, Accelerate, but if the band's heart wasn't in the making of this album, why should we bother?