Friday, 5 August 2011

Album review: R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

Highlights: Discoverer, All The Best, Walk It Back, Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I

Several lapses aside (who can forget the silly rapping on the otherwise brilliant “Radio Song” or the mess and patchiness of Monster?), R.E.M. have always had a great deal of taste to them. Even if on a couple of occasions taste was the only thing they had to fall back upon (the largely tedious and tired excuses like Reveal and Around The Sun)… But even during their worst and most uneventful years there was a feeling they only had to try, put a bit more of that heart into it.

And the harsh, punkish Accelerate from 2008 managed to confirm that feeling: suddenly R.E.M. sounded as involved, exciting and gutsy as during their Document phase. Collapse Into Now, for its part, is a much more balanced, settled affair. And it’s even better. Maybe Michael Stipe didn’t grace the album with great lyrics, but the tunes are mostly clever and memorable. Then there are all these tasteful jangly guitars of Peter Buck that can always make a song better than it really is. For instance, there is nothing particularly exceptional about lovely, introspective tracks like “Oh My Heart”, but Buck’s playing is simply too joyful to be ignored. In fact, Collapse Into Now is quite big on the band’s softer, mellower side, what with all these ballads occupying the larger sections of the record. But there’s not a misfire anywhere in sight, the poignant melody of “Me, Marlon Brando…” being especially strong.

This is what I want my late-period R.E.M. to sound like. Collapse Into Now has maturity and spark. What’s there to say? I want them to go on and keep releasing records this good. If only to “show the kids how to do it fine…”


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