R.E.M.'s glorious return to the past
Once upon a time, R.E.M. was called "America's greatest rock band of the '80s." From 1983 to 1987, album after album, they cranked out pure genius -- from "Murmur" through "Document." Trouble is, they left their songwriting skills back in that decade as well.
But if you believe the critics, the band's new disc -- "Accelerate" -- is a return to their old-school form. (Of course, they've said that about every one of their discs since '91.)
So what's the deal? Has R.E.M. finally found the Fountain of Youth? Surprisingly ... yes.
Here's a quick first impression of the new disc.
MOST RADIO-FRIENDLY TUNE: That'd be "Supernatural Superserious" -- catchy, clever, with a melody that's hard to resist. The lyrics wrap around you like a warm blanket: "No one cares if your fantasies are dressed up in travesties. Enjoy yourself with no regrets." [Watch the video]
PLAY THIS ONE IN CONCERT: "Hollow Man" has the potential to be a great live song, starting gently with just Michael Stipe and a piano before building slowly into a powerful anthem: "Believe in me. Believe in nothing. Corner me and make me something." [Listen]
SHORT AND TO THE POINT: Nearly half the songs on the disc come in under 3 minutes. Since when did R.E.M. morph into The Ramones? At 138 seconds, I can almost hear Joey singing along to "Horse To Water." Laugh, but it usually works. [Listen]
THE GOOD OLD DAYS: "Until The Day Is Done" sounds straight off the album that I consider their best -- "Life's Rich Pageant." [Listen]
WAIT FOR TIMOTHY DALTON'S RETURN: The title track -- "Accelerate" -- sounds like the theme song to the next James Bond movie. Not that this is a bad thing, but think how badly it worked out for Duran Duran. [Listen]
CLICK SKIP: There are still some throwaway tunes. "Living Well is the Best Revenge" and "Houston" are forgettable. "Mr. Richards" is one key and sex change away from a dreary "Mrs. Robinson." (Neither Simon nor Garfunkel is whistling along.)
The final verdict? It's nice to see a band remember why its fans loved them in the first place. Let's hope "Accelerate" is the first step forward -- to their lovable past.