Monday, April 7, 2008


Besides being one of the best albums of the year so far, R.E.M.'s Accelerate has the distinction of having the most apt title. It's lean and mean, doesn't drag on too long, doesn't seem like it's trying to impress Phillip Glass, and it has drums (albeit not drums played by Bill Berry, but still).

They sound like a band again, and they have confidence and swagger. I don't think people will nod off, or fight to be polite when they play these songs live.

I compare it to U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind, or Bruce Springsteen's The Rising, or maybe even Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy. It's a tighter, more focued album after a few that suffered from going overboard trying to be experimental, or just a lack of focus.

I don't need to go through the thing song by song, every single magazine is gushing about it anyway (as well they should). But some of the songs really resonate with me: I love the single "Supernatural Superserious." I love how it starts out: "Everybody here, comes from somewhere/that they would just as soon forget/and disguise." It's like putting a friendly arm around the shoulders of, well, lots of people. I also love "Accelerate": "Where is the rip-chord, the trapdoor, the key?/Where is the cartoon escape hatch for me? No time to question the choices I've made/I've got to follow another direction/Accelerate." Probably inspirational words for people in their 30s, 40s 50s. I've always loved Michael Stipe's but I think these are the most approachable.

I actually love every song on the album except one ("Hollow Man," which a friend of mine compared to Counting Crows) and that's something I haven't been able to say since New Adventures In Hi-Fi. That was in 1996 when Bill Berry was still in the band. Michael Stipe famously compared the band to a three-legged dog after Bill left, and said "A three legged dog is still a dog." Congratulations, boys, you've taught your three-legged dog to run again.

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