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Collapse Into Now
Alternative Veterans Roar Back To Relevance
Colm O Hare, 01 Mar 2011
Fifteen albums in a 30-year career might not sound all that prolific but there’s no denying the standing REM still enjoy among loyal fans and critics. Still the early years have remained their benchmark and everything they have done in the past decade and a half has been forensically compared and contrasted with their 80s and early 90s output, from their groundbreaker debut Murmur to the commercial peak that was Automatic For the People (now, astonishingly, almost 20 years old.) The fact that REM releases continue to be “an event” after all these years goes some way towards explaining record tight company security surrounding this release.
While they might have occasionally struggled creatively since their early triumphs, 2008’s Accelerate restored some momentum and relevance. Their second album with Jacknife Lee at the controls, Collapse Into Now fine-tunes this relationship with a blend of very familiar sounding REM textures, including an even mix of rockers, ballads and mid-tempo pop tunes. Guests include Patti Smith, her guitarist Lenny Kaye, Peaches, Eddie Vedder, and The Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb.
Single ‘Discoverer’ is textbook REM, Stipe’s restless vocals and Peter Buck’s jangly arpeggios racing along under an insistent rhythm. ‘All The Best’ follows in a similar vein but ‘Uberlin’ revisits the mandolin acoustic guitar textures they first explored on ‘Losing My Religion’. This theme is explored even deeper on ‘Oh My Heart’ a backwoods porch country stew that owes much to Neil Young.
With Eddie Vedder on harmony duet vocals the mid-tempo rocker, ‘It Happened Today’ harks back to the Green-era hit ‘The One I Love’, while elsewhere, the oddly titled ‘Mine Smell Like Honey’ is all buzz-saw guitars and gymnastic vocals. The Beach Boys Pet Sounds textures they explored so successfully on Up is apparent on ‘Every Day Is Yours To Win’, a song brimming with hope and optimism. It’s a surefire single contender.
‘That Someone Is You’ is pure ’80s power pop while ‘Walk it Back’ is REM at their finest, featuring acoustic guitars, electric rhythms and a tune that comes across like a Dusty Springfield mid-‘60s ballad meets The Velvet Underground.