Friday, June 6, 2008

Music Review: "Accelerate," R.E.M.

Frankly, R.E.M. has bored me silly since 1988's "Green." To me, they became maudlin ("Everybody Hurts" and "Man on the Moon," for instance) and self-important, meandering, and without focus.

So when the early buzz for "Accelerate" hinted at a return to sharp rock tunes, I was intrigued. After a week of near constant play in my car, I'm convinced: they still got it. In spades!

The opener, "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," starts with a compact Merle Travis-style guitar lick and adds a great Michael Stipe poetry slam vocal. There's absolutely no melody, but that's OK: the song is relentless and explosive, and it holds up after lots of plays. It's amazing to hear how much R.E.M. can do with so little.

I also love "Man-Sized Wreath," "Supernatural Superserious," "Horse to Water," and "Mr. Richards." The latter reminds me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a deliberate, shoe-gazing groove with exquisite, subtle harmonies. It's been stuck in my head for days.

"Accelerate" sounds crafted and confident, with a certain "we can still rock" defiance. The songs know where they're going, and with the exception of "Houston," don't meander. The simple songs belie a surprising depth that bubbles to the surface after repeated listens. Quite a few moments of this release are magnificent.

It's no coincidence the band chose a simple, xerox style graphic for their album cover. These millionaires are revisting their old club days in Athens, no?

It's useless to compare "Accelerate" to old R.E.M. — Reagan is dead, Stipe is bald, and gas is $4.00 a gallon.

My grade? A solid B+ for effort.

Old guys rock!

No comments: