Accelerate is patchy at best, with only the blaring finale, ‘I’m Gonna DJ’, really catching the attention.
Talking to this writer early last year in his capacity as guitarist with cult English songwriter Robyn Hitchcock’s touring line-up, Peter Buck acknowledged the lack of uptempo rock tracks on the past few REM albums, and stated his intention to rectify the situation on the next record by the Athens group.
Buck has certainly succeeded in making Accelerate a much heavier affair than either Reveal or Around The Sun – it’s the loudest and most abrasive REM offering since 1994’s Monster, in fact – but it ultimately proves to be another underwhelming album from a band who seem to have lost their creative spark in recent years.
Whatever its root cause, the diagnosis of REM’s current malady is straightforward: like Oasis and, latterly, The Strokes, their gift for melody has abandoned them. Though it has plenty of energy and attitude, Accelerate conspicuously lacks a track the calibre of ‘Stand’, ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’ or ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’, all of which dazzled with their lyrical inventiveness, musical dynamism and lethally addictive hooks.
Michael Stipe has said that Accelerate “comments on the future I wanted, and I’m going to say, ‘I want my future now!’” That’s great, but it doesn’t start with an earthquake. The album actually commences with ‘Living Well’s The Best Revenge’, a somewhat lukewarm, punk-influenced rocker that sets the tone for the rest of Accelerate in that it’s fast, short (just over three minutes), has Jacknife Lee’s trademark production sheen and a lyric that deals with the Bush administration’s catastrophic policy errors and the media’s frequently distorted reportage of same.
The lyrics are actually one of the biggest disappointments of Accelerate, as they lack the kind of trademark flourishes that Michael Stipe has traditionally specialised in. One thinks of ‘Man On The Moon’, with its celebrated references to Andy Kaufman, or the aforementioned ‘Kenneth’, based on the bizarre incident in which two men assaulted CBS news anchor Dan Rather in Central Park, with one of the assailants repeatedly asking, ‘Kenneth, What’s The Frequency?’
These days, Stipe utilises a more thematically narrow brand of agitprop, and while the sentiments are unquestionably very admirable, some of the humour, unusual digressions and surrealist imagery of old wouldn’t have gone amiss.
After ‘Living Well’, Accelerate continues with a series of thumping rockers that will be familiar to those who attended the band’s series of live rehearsals in Dublin last summer, including ‘Mansized Wreath’ and ‘Supernatural Superserious’. The only time the record really pauses for breath is on the acoustic numbers ‘Houston’ and ‘Until The Day Is Done’ which, ironically, are two of the best tracks.
The former is a moody folk composition that ends, incongruously enough, with a short blast of feedback a la Sonic Youth, whilst the latter is a slice of rootsy Americana in the classic REM mould. Next up is the best song of all, ‘Mr. Richards’, in which Stipe plays the angry-but-defiant spokesman of the anti-GOP consortium (“You’re mistaken if you think we’ll just fall down”), against the backdrop of some superb, near shoegazer-style guitar work from Buck.
Unfortunately, thereafter Accelerate is patchy at best, with only the blaring finale, ‘I’m Gonna DJ’, really catching the attention. REM’s body of work ensures that they are unlikely to ever be anything other than a formidable live act, but on the evidence of Around The Sun and now Accelerate, they are in danger of becoming a sort of alternative rock Rolling Stones; a huge touring draw whose appeal is heavily reliant on their back catalogue.
Key track: ‘Mr. Richards’
The first REMTV trailer has hit the ‘net and has us drooling in anticipation of the MTV documentary, which will also feature as part of a six-DVD box-set that gathers together serious amounts of archive material and drops on Friday November 21.Read More
You can listen to 'We All Go Back To Where We Belong' online now.Read More
It's not quite over yet...Read More
Legendary band call time on a historic career.Read More
Watch 'It Happened Today', from Collapse Into Now, here!Read More
Customers will be able to listen to the album 72 hours before its releaseRead More
Alternative Veterans Roar Back To RelevanceRead More
You can download, remix and upload 'It Happened Today', taken from the band's upcoming albumRead More
Check out the video for 'Uberlin', which got its first Irish airplay this weekRead More
They've given us album opener 'Discoverer', and a short and sweet trailer, now check out 'Oh My Heart'Read More
The follow-up to 2008's Accelerate will be released in Spring 2011Read More
Michael Stipe has his camcorder in the studio with him!Read More
Indie rock legends kick back at Dublin knees-upRead More
Recordings of 2007's Dublin gigs set for October arrival.Read More
Double-disc live album to follow.Read More
Musicians have reacted with bewilderment to the revelation that REM’s new album Accelerate will be accepted as ‘Irish music’ by the BCI.Read More
Michael Stipe talks about REM's new album Accelerate, looks back at their 'working rehearsals' in Dublin and explains how their Irish-born producer helped them through their mid-life crisis.Read More
It's being reported that R.E.M. will play the Oxegen festival this summer.Read More
R.E.M. have confirmed details of their new album, which was publicly rehearsed in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre last year and recorded in Westmeath’s Grouse Lodge Studios.Read More
Stadium giants REM are to release their first-ever live album and DVD this autumn - a recording of a concert in Dublin.Read More
Now venerated members of the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, REM are back stronger than ever before.Read More
If REM apply the same print-and-be-damned attitude to the recording of these songs as they did to their live unveiling, they might produce their most vibrant record in years.Read More
R.E.M. are tonight set to complete their five-night stand in what they gushingly describe as “one of the greatest cities in world”.Read More
In a new move to combat touts, REM will release a limited number of tickets for their coming Olympia Theatre shows.Read More
In support of their upcoming Working Rehearsal concerts at the Olympia Theatre, R.E.M. have launched a new website to commemorate the occasion.Read More
REM have announced which lucky artists will support them when they play their five date residency at The Olympia, Dublin.Read More
REM are urging fans not to purchase tickets for their Dublin Olympia gigs from unofficial outlets after 122 disappeared in transit between the UK and the venue box-office on Friday March 30.Read More
American supergroup REM are to play a residency at The Olympia as a "working rehersal" of their new album.Read More
In 2005, what is the point of REM? At times even they seem to be grasping for an answer. For nearly a decade now, the music of Stipe, Buck and Mills has told a story of wavering attention spans. Over that period, fans have cheered rousing, reflective echoes of previous glories – ‘Leaving New York’ might be their best stab at an unapologetic anthem since the mid 1990s – yet endured reams of disinterested dross also.Read More
Michael Stipe paid a special tribute to imprisoned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi during REM's Irish performance last nightRead More
Tonight, Stipe looks like The Riddler – pipe-cleaner thin, all legs and hips and frozen Ka-Pow poses; while around the eyes, a thick smudge of face paint completes the effect. For a forty-something, he sheds years like his lyric sheets.Read More
Recent visitors REM are pictured here with the suitably chuffed staff of Warner Music IrelandRead More
REM bassist Mike Mills has recovered from illness, allowing the band to continue their European tour which comes to Ireland on FridayRead More
Despite cancelling two tour dates in Britain this week, REM ticketholders in Ireland are assured the shows will go onRead More
Sadly ‘Aftermath’ just isn’t very interesting.Read More
REM have announced details of a summer gig at Ardgillan Castle in County DublinRead More
They are one of the most interesting and enigmatic groups in rock. They are also one of the biggest, with a string of multi-million selling albums to their credit. But they don’t like interviews much, making themselves available for only a handful in Europe to coincide with the release of their new album Around The Sun. Once Peter Buck sits down opposite a microphone, however, a different face of REM reveals itself, as he talks eloquently about life, family, downloads, air rage, Iraq, Bush – and The Thrills.Read More
REM will be appearing on Across The Line TV on Friday, October 1Read More
Sometimes desperate times call for delicate measures.Read More
Talk about hot cakes, REM are filling two Point Depots full of them...Read More
With the release of their new album just a couple of weeks away, REM have added Dublin and Belfast to their set of European dates.Read More
from reagan to bush; from radio free europe to clear channel; from green to reveal; from the sfx to marlay park. REM call time out and Peter Buck fills in the gaps from 1983 to 2003. interview Peter MurphyRead More
‘Bad Day’ finds the band in upbeat mode.Read More
Set opener ‘Begin The Begin’ from Life’s Rich Pageant indicates it’s a night for the fans and not the lighters in the air brigade. ‘Read More
REM talk about preparations for their upcoming Dublin showRead More
The uber-band make their feelings known by streaming a track, 'Final Straw', from their websiteRead More
REM announce second Marlay Park date plus a Best Of due out in the AutumnRead More
REM to play Glastonbury, T in The Park and - wait for it - Dublin's Marlay Park in July 2003Read More
They do it ‘cos they like to do it, and that’s the only way to create brilliant music. Which this rhinestone studded offering most definitely is.Read More
Sometimes it’s not bad being a rock legend.Read More
REM ‘Imitation Of Life’ [Warners]Read More
R.E.M.: “Bang And Blame” (Warner)Read More
Monster is a beast of a different colour, but in sonic terms at least, it harks back to the spirit,Read More
REM: “Find The River” (Warners)Read More
Yet, it is probably the best thing they've ever done. I'd half hoped that it wouldn't be.Read More
With 'Green' and its attendant world tour finally thrusting R.E.M. into the mainstream after seven years as the worst-kept secret in the Western hemisphere, it was odds-on that, given the band's predilection for avoiding the obvious, the follow-up would bear little relation to its illustrious predecessor, bar the songwriting credits.Read More
Two weeks ago, Life’s Rich Pageant sounded to these ears like a formulated cop-out, an undignified retreat where previously REM had charged remorselessly forward.Read More
With Fables of The Reconstruction R.E.M. find themselves thrust into the 'third album' dilemma - whether to persist with a distinctive sound, thereby risking being pigeonholed, or to make such a radical departure as to lose their initial following and gamble on finding a completely new audience.Read More
"We didn't want it to be the same type of production, Reckoning is less of a mood record, more of a song record". Thus R.E.M. guitarist, Peter Buck on the reasoning behind Reckoning. For once, the pre-sell of the press-release contains the truth.Read More