Warner Bros., 2008

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


With such a huge surprise in such a small dose, R.E.M. makes a comeback disc that’s ironically shocking. Accelerate has its roots firmly entrenched in the pre-Out Of Time days, where the songs brimmed with folkiness and an earnest indie college-radio sound that made the band’s music so unique over almost three decades. And even though R.E.M. has always been metamorphosing with every album, the group’s lack of vigor and direction in their work from the days of the departure of drummer Bill Berry have been hurting their popularity as much as it has been hurting their long-time fans. But on Accelerate, instead of going forward, R.E.M. has gone back a couple of decades back and has crafted an album that sounds every bit classic R.E.M., which is the biggest shocker  the band could throw at its fans after a rather tepid last few albums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Like a young zealous indie rock band bustling with energy, R.E.M. has churned out eleven simple but power-packed songs, most of which barely go over the three-minute mark. But its apparent simplicity and length could be deceiving. Even though Accelerate could be the shortest R.E.M. album, it is as gratifying as any other record, and moreso than the ones in recent years. The songs are racy and succinct: no weird experimentation and absolutely no bullshit.

This album has all the elements of R.E.M. from the ‘80s, set in a contemporary tone. Amongst all R.E.M. records, Accelerate has similar dynamics to another really short album, the group’s fourth album, 1986’s Life’s Rich Pageant. Numbers like “Accelerate,” and “Horse To Water” are tight and sharp rockers like “Begin The Begin” or “I Believe,” whereas “Mr. Richards” and “Until The Day Is Done” are reflective somber gems similar in mood to “Cuyahoga” or “Fall On Me.” 

As the title of the opening number “Living Well Is The Best Revenge” suggests, it seems as though the disc is almost like a retort to the band members themselves for losing focus after Berry’s exodus. And it is as if the rest of the band that was grieving over his loss from the lineup has finally come to terms with it and has decided to move on. Never have the simple pounding of the drums and roaring of the guitars been so much in force since Monster. But in contrast to Monster, where the reverbs and fuzzy guitar effects formed the basis of the album, the material here has a much purer sound, but is nevertheless, equally edgy and restless.

The focus behind Accelerate -- that of creating a straightforward and uncomplicated record -- is so simple that it is laughable that it had to be the main idea behind an explosive comeback album for a band that has literally defined folk rock music. This very basic idea has yielded an album so great, which even the biggest ideas of the band couldn’t give birth to. R.E.M. needed such an album badly. The fans needed it even worse.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Vish Iyer 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.