Category Archives: R.E.M.

R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now

R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now

3.5/5

2011

Accelerate did something important for R.E.M.: it made them sound like a band again. Its back-to-basics feel made it their first album that felt fresh since the loss of drummer Bill Berry in the mid 90s. It didn’t return them to the forefront of alternative music by any means, but it showcased them as mature craftsmen, the work of rock musicians around long enough to apply what they’ve learned, even if they aren’t pushing the envelope. In this sense, R.E.M.’s 15th album, Collapse Into Now, follows suit, but it’s a very different beast all together. While Accelerate was all energy and ringing guitars—hearkening back to their rough-hewn classic Lifes Rich Pageant—Collapse Into Now takes a more varied approach, equally focusing on the softer, folky side of the band’s personality as their tougher rockers. The album also has a distinct haze in its production, ebbing and flowing even when the band turns up their amps. In short, like Accelerate, it’s another record that is pieced together from R.E.M.’s past, but even if there is nothing terribly exciting or fresh on Collapse Into Now, its familiarity can be comforting and rewarding all the same. The folky balladry of “Oh My Heart” and “Everyday Is Yours To Win” sounds like outtakes from Out of Time or Automatic For The People, complete with mandolin riffs and string sections; “Mine Smell Like Honey” and “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter” are brash anthems that recall the band’s late 80s work; and the druggy closer “Blue” brings it all together, going off on its own tangent entirely. Bringing in old friends and contemporaries like Patti Smith and Eddie Vedder to sing on a few tracks also reinforces the idea that the band isn’t concerned with trying to sound modern, as does Michael Stipe’s referring to both his age and the younger generation in his lyrics. Taking stock of their past and accepting their maturity is a step in the right direction, and if they dig a little deeper to create something more inventive, there may be more mileage in R.E.M. yet.

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