It’s no secret that in the years since Bill Berry’s departure, R.E.M entered a headlong creative decline, hitting rock bottom with 2004’s pallid and self important Around The Sun. Ironically, as the artistic rot set in, the band were positively rejuvenated as a live act; headlining the world’s festivals with set lists that spanned their entire 30 year career.
2008’s Accelerate saw R.E.M attempt to inject the vitality of their live performances back into their sagging studio efforts. The results were not entirely positive, the album had the distinct air of dad-rock (a band attempting to relive if not recapture their youth), but ultimately the band’s energy proved infectious making Accelerate their best work in a decade.
One listen to Collapse Into Now’s opening salvo of “Discoverer” and “All The Best” makes clear that the energetic and engaged R.E.M are here to stay. New ideas may be few and far between but the riffs rock and Stipe is clearly having a whale of a time blending and revisiting his past vocal performances.
At times the retrospection becomes tiresome; the perfectly enjoyable “UBerlin” highlights a band still living in “Drive’s” shadow.
While “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” attempts to recapture the enigmatic free form vocals of Murmur, but instead falls somewhere between self parody and Dad dancing at his daughter’s wedding embarrassment.
These cringe worthy moments find themselves entirely overshadowed by the overall quality and charm of Collapse Into Now’s first eight tracks, and the superbly judged “Oh My Heart” (Stipe’s beautifully considered first person tale of post-Hurricane Katrina recovery). Collapse Into Now may be noticeably short on new ideas, but it provides the perfect blue print to help these aging art-pop innovators grow old gracefully.
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