Warner Bros., 2008

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


The best qualities in a person or a group of people most often are drawn out and amplified when the situation is dire: the college student burns the midnight oil to finish a term paper that is due the next day; the businessman spends hours rehearsing the biggest presentation of the fiscal year; the doctor spends fourteen hours in surgery to successfully complete a heart transplant.

Of course, people go through these ordeals because the outcome has a huge impact on their buying food the next week, or whether or not that new Ford is in the cards. Even though whether or not R.E.M. followed up the disastrous failure of 2004’s Around The Sun with a quality record fails to impact the normal person driving to work thinking about those very things, for the three men currently involved in the band, that was all that mattered.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Floundering would seem to be an appropriate word to sum up the past few years for R.E.M. Experimentation led to attempts to reclaim past glory, but for the most part, those ventures were lacking in inspiration and sincerity. Around The Sun plays not as a particularly terrible record, but it provides no reason to listen to it again either. Accelerate flips the situation on its head, demanding repeated trips to glean the smallest of details.

This is not to imply that Accelerate is a lush, deeply textured album à la Sgt. Pepper’s. What comes across as the record progresses is that R.E.M. have finally made an attempt to dismiss some of their artistic pretentiousness and get down to the business of making an album. The distorted guitars and hard-biting riffs sharpen what had been a dull blade for years previous, and the depth of the lyrics goes more than just knee-deep, figuratively speaking. When Michael Stipe reaches to emote a certain mood on “Submarine,” there’s a foundation underneath that makes the task much easier.

Of course, the challenge to reach those lofty heights laid out in the early ‘80s when R.E.M. defined the alt-rock genre is a long process, and Accelerate is the first step in that direction. There are moments when the aforementioned forcefulness rears its head, and the strain of R.E.M. trying to sound like themselves comes through. The title track, for instance, lays out all the elements that should make a successful R.E.M. song, but nevertheless, all those aspects don’t coalesce together as well as they should. The brevity of the album does help dilute most of the potential negatives, but it doesn’t eliminate them completely.

By the time the album comes to its sudden halt, R.E.M. has proven their value as a vital rock act -- a crucial characteristic that was lacking for some time now. How much the band takes this return to form seriously is only something that can be borne out with another new album. For now, take comfort in that one of rock’s bigger names has, for the most part, reclaimed their status.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Bros., and is used for informational purposes only.