Release Date: Mar 8, 2011
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
For anyone wondering what Michael Stipe wants after all these years, Stipe has chosen R.E.M.'s 15th album as the place to run down his wish list. "I want Whitman proud!" he declares in the superb finale, "Blue." "I want Patti Lee proud," meaning old friend Patti Smith, who's there in the studio making gorgeously guttural noises. "I want my brothers proud," probably meaning Peter Buck and Mike Mills, who cut loose with a country-feedback guitar groove.
Despite some small stutter steps, Collapse Into Now is easily the best R.E.M. album since the trio lost its way. These songs are worthy of attention, praise and a place in your music library—and they definitely deserve better than a soundtrack to your morning latte..
It must be odd being R.E.M. (along with being unbelievably amazing). In the current musical universe, there’s dozens of bands who owe their very existence to the trio. Plus, they’re unique in that there’s no act as capable of rocking out as hard and being as alternatively artsy and abstract as them without simply ripping them off in the first place.
"Let's show the kids how to do it, fine," sings Michael Stipe on the torrid rocker "All the Best," the second song on Collapse Into Now, R.E.M.'s finest album in nearly 15 years. The lyric nods to 1992's Automatic For the People's call out on "Drive," "Hey kids, where are you? Nobody tells you what to do," Stipe's confession of impending middle age and losing touch with youth. But here, the 51-year-old is comfortable in his role as an elder statesman, as are guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills on their most self-aware record since the departure of drummer Bill Berry in 1998.
REM's creative decline in the last decade coincided with the loss of drummer Bill Berry and their apparent need to make more keyboardy and acoustic albums, rather than the elemental rock that made them such a 1980s/90s force. However, Collapse Into Now continues the return to form of 2008's Accelerate by rewinding to their old classics to relocate their mojo. The sublime Uberlin sounds a bit like Drive; magisterial opener Discoverer vaguely echoes Disturbance at the Heron House – and so on.
2008's Accelerate gave R.E.M. fans some hope that they might be able to overcome their late-career slump, but its focus on loud rock guitars wasn't exactly what most of us are looking for from the band. So it was with cautious optimism that we approached Collapse Into Now, their 15th (!) studio album. You can almost hear critics and fans all over the world breathing a huge sigh of relief.
The real problem with post-Up R.E.M. is that since Athens, Georgia's favourite sons bashed out those astounding first 11 albums in just 17 years, the band has effectively become a part time proposition, knocking out just four records in the last 13 years. It’s no longer the only artistic outlet for its members, and you get the impression that when Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills convene for the leisurely, two year, multi-studio process that results in a new R.E.M.
R.E.M.’s 2008 album, Accelerate, was a welcomed return to the electric guitar and goosebump-inducing harmonies from years gone by. There was a renewed energy emanating from deep within singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills that hadn’t been felt since the departure of former drummer, Bill Berry. The sting of 2004’s Around the Sun brought forth a new recording attitude, as well as a brand new Irish producer (Garret “Jacknife” Lee) replacing Pat McCarthy.
Righting themselves via their long-awaited return to rock Accelerate, R.E.M. regrouped and rediscovered their core strengths as a band, strengths they build upon on its 2011 sequel, Collapse into Now. Cautiously moving forward from Accelerate’s Life's Rich Pageant blueprint, R.E.M. steer themselves toward the pastoral, acoustic moments of Out of Time and Automatic for the People without quite leaving behind the tight, punchy rockers that fueled Accelerate’s race to the end zone.
“Hey now, take your pills,” Michael Stipe sings pensively on “Überlin. ” “Hey now, make your breakfast. ” If the cadence of those lines and the melody of that song remind listeners of R.
Though they've been playing stadiums for decades, R.E.M. have never really traded in stadium-sized rock. From the release of the "Radio Free Europe" single in 1981 through 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi, the band's most anthemic songs were always tempered by space, restraint, and nuance; even 1994's so-called "big dumb rock album" Monster was an exercise in skeletal glam and sly, swaggering pastiche.
Review Summary: Drifting off, but not fully asleep just yetThe past thirteen years have been strange ones for R.E.M. After dealing with the loss of drummer Bill Berry in 1998 they went on to produce the haunting Up, an album that dealt with faith, loyalty and loss wrapped in inspired use of musical experimentation. 2001’s Reveal carried on that good work and the group seemed on the cusp of a great new era.
After a decade of increasingly underwhelming albums following the departure of drummer/founding member Bill Berry in 1997, R.E.M. forcibly pulled itself out of its creative doldrums with the energetic 2008 release Accelerate. That record was a long-hungered-for revitalization for the veteran alt-rock group by longtime fans and wistful critics, who knew that the boys from Athens, Georgia were capable of far better efforts than they had been turning out lately.
I’m tired of “not bad” R.E.M. albums. Unfortunately, since their last truly great album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, that’s all the band has released. Their last album, 2009’s Accelerate, was a slightly better variation on their last 15 years of output, and the new Collapse Into Now stands as a slightly weaker iteration.
As deep as previous R.E.M. classics, and perhaps their best post-Bill Berry LP. Martin Aston 2011. "I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog," said Michael Stipe when drummer Bill Berry quit R.E.M. in 1997. True, but a three-legged dog never triumphed at Crufts or the racetrack. Even so, the R.E.M ….
”It’s just like me to overstay my welcome,” barks Michael Stipe, daring listeners to agree. Late-period R.E.M. often lacks the fire and finesse of their college-rock classics, but Collapse Into Now‘s sharp power-pop blasts get it half right. Stipe’s cornball lyrics still rankle, but when the acoustic lilt of ”It Happened Today” melts into a sweet, wordless coda powered by Mike Mills’ epic harmonies, it’s a welcome reminder, and a pleasant surprise.
In its 30 years together, R.E.M. has always operated with the understanding that it’s better to dive off the deep end in search of new directions than tread water in one spot, safely avoiding risk only to assure irrelevance. That’s as it should be, yet the band’s adventurousness and efforts to find equilibrium after drummer Bill Berry’s departure have caused persistent murmurs that Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck would never equal R.E.M.’s greatest triumph: Automatic For The People – or even its prelude, Out Of Time.