Monday, 7 March 2011
REVIEW: R.E.M.: COLLAPSE INTO NOW
The rapid eyes have it in motion.
With their 15th studio album after 31 years in the industry, R.E.M. may look even older, but their sound has remained young, fresh never tired. Every one of this acts albums have been great and there are just too many classic long players to choose from. All the way from their 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' to L.P.'s that are 'Automatic For The People'. Classic songs including 'Everybody Hurts' and 'Losing My Religion' have defined not only the band but the incredible 90's decade of popular music. This band is so popular and familiar that although it doesn't seem like three years since their last release they are always sorely missed during hiatus and warmly welcomed on their return between fans and industry critics alike. Following 2008's 'Accelerate' and a great tour the band re-unite with the albums producer Jacknife Lee, fast-forwarding their sound even further for old tape-decks and new iPods alike with this weeks release 'Collapse Into Now'.
This alternative act had a lot of choices for this set's inspiration. Recording in Berlin, Germany, Nashville, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana to expand their already wide world sound. This new sound kicks off, live in stereo with the upbeat, uplifting 'Discover', where the band find the help of Patti Smith for some additional vocals. Then the group give more of their effort to the great rock and roll number, 'All The Best'. As he band step into second-gear it's clear their going to stay right on track.
Now how about the singles? The cheekily sweet 'Mine Smell Like Honey' is traditional, 'Monster' era R.E.M. with great lyrics like "I would dare you, but I know I don’t need to/You’re going to do just what you want to/You’re going to take the leavings here at the fairground/You’re going to sing the praises of your fruit". While the great, German inspired third single 'Überlin' is a typical, timeless slow, sublime, beautiful ballad. Still it's the second single co-wrote by Scott McCaughey, 'Oh My Heart' that stands first and foremost amongst the rest. Bursting through with it's trumpet and sousaphone marching band feel with some real March Madness to begin this month.
Then the legendary act further their legacy with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder for the stellar, stunning collaboration 'It Happened Today'. Vedder's haunting vocals make this a shining jam worth it's weight in pearls. It's little wonder the band have made 12 video clips to go with these 12 songs because they are all huge with a cinematic edge to them. The motivating 'Everyday is Yours To Win' could see itself in some movies or writers work playlists for years to come. Truly inspiring.
As the album heads to it's fall, this first quarter release ignites the start of the year even more with the piano fuelled led potency of 'Walk it Back'. This track that harks back to other R.E.M. slow burners steps in the direction of greatness. As Stipe classically croons "something needs to change", one things for certain, he and his band needn't. Then on the alliteration rocker 'Alligator, Aviator, Autopilot, Antimatter' the group show despite age, their amazing, appealing attitude is still apparent after 'Automatic', 'Adventures' all the way to their recent 'Around The Sun' and 'Accelerate'.
On 'That Someone is You' Stipe gets to his point quicker then he did on 'The End of the World' verses but on a precision, point track it all feels fine. Referencing 'Scarface' and Al Pacino the group then get theatrical on 'Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I'. A track enigmatic and interesting like the great actor was. Still, however as Patti Smith rejoins the three-piece for the closer and a 'Discover' reprise, R.E.M. save their best for last with 'Blue'. As classic as the Joni Mitchell album of the same name this deep, dark spoken word number really harks back to the early days of the band when the hair was on Michael Stipe's head, not his chin. Stipe may aswell have his 'Orange Crush' megaphone, as this rally cry refuses to yield with lyrics like, "I don't mark my times with dates, holidays, fate, wisdom, luck" as the group inspire and refuse to be moved or changed all at the same time. This is a notion that has kept this 'best band in the world' so relevant and so alive in the industry for all these decades and albums. As R.E.M. refuse to fall in line they still remain accepted even to this modern-day. 'Collapse Into Now' is a truly great disc to add to an incredible growing discography. TIM DAVID HARVEY.