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R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now

As R.E.M. hobbled through the ’00s, they definitely seemed like a band that probably should have broken up after the departure of original drummer Bill Berry in 1997.  But then in 2008 they came out with Accelerate, an energetic little album that saw the band showing some serious signs of life while making somewhat of a comeback.  Their latest album, Collapse Into Now sees Michael Stipe and co. exploring pretty familiar ground, but the songs are nonetheless just as good on anything on Accelerate, as well as anything they’ve done in the last decade or so.

Their last album was marked by a ferociously guitar-driven sound, and Collapse Into Now is kind of similar in that the guitars are at the forefront.  But we also get a lot of the more subdued ballads that R.E.M. have often done quite well over their illustrious career.  You even get to hear Peter Buck conjure up the ghosts of “Losing My Religion”, by throwing in some mandolin on “Uberlin” and “It Happened Today”.

Another component of the album’s success, which is pretty much the case for any R.E.M. album, is the commanding presence of Michael Stipe.  He can still be unbelievably tender on songs like “Walk It Back”, while he still has an undeniably irreverent energy on songs like “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” and “That Some On Is You”.

Like most bands their age, R.E.M. aren’t really in any position to reinvent their sound, but then again they were never really one of those bands anyways, despite their long-lasting vitality.  And like most worthwhile albums by a middle-aged rock band, Collapse Into Now reminds us why these guys are who they are, and why they still deserve to be around.

Favorite Tracks: “UBerlin”, “It Happened Today”, “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter”

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