Thursday, 8 May 2008

REM - Accelerate


There has been much approving comment about the new REM album, ‘Accelerate’ so I thought I’d better pick up a copy to see what all the fuss was about. So with breathless anticipation I sat down and played it a few times but I am disappointed to say that I am a little underwhelmed, which is a shame because I generally like REM and I really wanted this to be a cracker.

So what’s good about it? There is no doubt that it has real energy and I think this is what many people like about it, especially those who are long term fans and remember the likes of ‘Document’ and even ‘Monster’. Of late, REM has tended to be a little wistful and underpowered in style and a return to the rockier upbeat mode is certainly to be welcomed.

Also, Michael Stipe seems to be on top lyrical form on this album, which again is commendable as it shows that he is still thinking and hasn’t given up and retreated to his superstar shell. Nor do I object to the fact that the album is only 35 minutes long. I actually like albums to be this sort of length as it allows easy assimilation. What I find less likeable are those interminable albums that go on and on for the best part of an hour. So, ticks in the box for energy, lyrics and length.

BUT. Where are the good tunes? Energy and lyrics are not enough. Music stands or falls by its melody and it is a sad fact that so many bands fall into this trap. Whilst their slower songs are chock full of melody, everything goes to pot when they rev it up a little. But it needn’t be like this as a quick listen to their own ‘Stand’, ‘Orange Crush’ or ‘Imitation of life’ demonstrates. These are energetic and powerful, yet they still have tunes to die for. I also re-listened to ‘Up’ and ‘Reveal’ just to remind myself of their melodic invention and the result was even more dissatisfaction with ‘Accelerate’.

For me, ‘Accelerate’ doesn’t quite work. The best tracks are single ‘Supernatural Superserious’ and ‘Until the Day is Done’, both of which manage to meld a great tune with an upbeat rhythm, but the rest of the album I find a bit hum-drum but this may be because I always have high expectations of this band. By any other standards this is still a good album.

Now if their next album could maintain the attack and relentless energy of ‘Accelerate’ and graft in the type of melodies on show in their albums from say ‘Automatic for the People’ to ‘Reveal’, then we really would have a REM album to cheer about.

1 comment:

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Good review. I have listened to it once but always need to hear something a few times to get a good feel for it.