The New R.E.M. Record

First, a bit of history:

R.E.M. is, and has always been, my favorite band. It sounds completely ridiculous but it’s no exaggeration to say that R.E.M. changed my life. My teenage years were spent basically studying rock music with R.E.M. as the jumping-off point, and I still go through a reliable annual period of complete obsession with their back catalog. During college, I actively contributed and lurked at, the finest R.E.M.-related messageboard on the internets. I once wrote a terrible, non-sensical short story on a bulletin during a church service by stringing together R.E.M. lyrics. Later, I wrote a 10-page essay applying deconstructionist critical theory to Murmur for a 300-level college english class. My wife and I have done the “R.E.M. Walking Tour” of Athens, GA (a small town wander session that passes you by unmarked landmarks such as Bill Berry’s former apartment, and a pile of rubble that used to be their rehearsal space) — and I thought it was farking awesome. I’ve seriously discussed the idea of starting an R.E.M. cover band.

All that said, I hated their last two records. Actually, I thought I hated their 2001 album Reveal. Then they put out Around the Sun in 2004, and Reveal suddenly had highlights. The live album they put out last year was mostly abysmal. I know it’s not the general concensus among all R.E.M. fans, and I know it makes me sound all ““, but in my opinion, it’s been hard to be an R.E.M. fanboy in the last eight years.

Even with the positive pre-release buzz on the new record, I’ve been diluting my anticipation with a healthy dose of “meh”.

So, we received a promo copy of Accelerate last week at Grimey’s, and my crew had it queued it up for me as I walked in the door on Saturday morning.

And I loved it.

Sure, I’ll admit it’s probably the geek in me, but I haven’t felt that way listening to an album since I was in high school… maybe since the first time I heard ‘”E-Bow the Letter” sitting in the driveway, listening to the radio on my mother’s car. Accelerate is a propuslive record — one that crackles with life that this band hasn’t really had since Monster or even Document. It’s not exactly a settling back into the jangly IRS-records sound that most longtime fans secretly (or not-so secretly) clamor for… it’s more an ackowledgement of the past tempered with strong forward motion. On Accelerate, R.E.M. sounds both mature and eager, and it’s a sound that they sound very comfortable in, which suddenly seems to be the root element that was sorely missing from the last two records.

It’s not perfect — “Hollow Man” kind of blows, “Song for the Submarine” seems like it may be a grower — but I’ve always argued that R.E.M. haven’t ever really made a “perfect” singular album. All’s I know is that once the record was over, I immediately wanted to listen to it again, and I’ve been jonesing to hear it since.

You can stream the album for free on Facebook with all the cool kids on 3/24. I will.