REM - Accelerate
Returns to form don’t come much better or more surprising. Written off as an increasingly irrelevant force this millennium (particularly following 2004’s mediocre Around the Sun), REM now breeze in with a startlingly youthful record. And, indeed, all the hallmarks of their 1980s post-new wave roots are here: Peter Buck’s arpeggiations, Mike Mills’ mobile bass and harmonies and Michael Stipe’s playful, yet opaque lyrics. It would risk self-parody were it not for the sheer strength of songwriting and energy of the playing.
From the opening tirade of Bush-baiter ‘Living Well’s the Best Revenge’ the pace barely relents for Accelerate’s flab-free 35 minutes. When it does – particularly on Katrina-survivor missive ‘Houston’ and ‘Until the Day is Done’ – it echoes the gorgeous southern-tinged electric pastorals of Automatic for the People.
Altogether, the songs breathe in an expansive manner not displayed since 1986’s Lifes Rich Pageant.
A career overview of sorts, then, and their best showing in a decade – but very much a 21st century reconstruction of the REM fable.