R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now

January 01, 1970

(Warner
Bros.)

 

www.warnerbros.com

 

That
sinking feeling that R.E.M. seem to be on about in their new album’s title
doesn’t manifest itself within their most sonically diverse body of work since
2001’s Reveal. Mind you, it’s not
that Collapse is Michael Stipe, Peter
Buck and Michael Mills’ positivist manifesto for the new decade. The now-ness
is simply about shaking loose the head fuzz that marked their last 15 years.

 

This
R.E.M. sound present – or at least as much as they did on Accelerate, the previous studio album produced with blunt precision
by Jacknife Lee. Lee brings the same razor noir vibe to cuts recorded across
three towns (Berlin, Nashville, New Orleans) with too-many guests (Peaches,
Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, Lenny Kaye) and keeps all matters focused no matter
where the music or travel budget went.

 

When
Stipe croons through the grungy ring of “All the Best” the line “it’s just like
me to overstay my welcome”, you’re not looking for something sarcastic to say
back to him. Stipe’s got a lot of shopworn platitudes and attitudes used as
lyrical motifs here. He’s “never felt so calm” (“Discoverer”) He “earned his
wings” (“It Happened Today”). Luckily these are some of Collapse‘s brightest moments, the former borrowing its crusty
melody and guitars from PIL’s “Seattle”
and the latter, one of the trio’s chillier anthems. The album is at its best
when it makes use of its heroes, especially on the piano-driven “Walk It Back”
and the raveup “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Animator”. Both benefit from Patti
Smith’s influence, the previous track a Smith-attack on her Phil Spector
period, the second actually featuring punk’s godparents Patti and Lenny Kaye
attacking their instruments and R.E.M.’s melody like rabid dogs. (Eddie Vedder and Peaches also guest on the record.)

 

While
most of its soft ballads are on the OK side, their finest moment is the
twinkling Velvets-like lullaby “Everyday is Yours to Win.” Funny that, I think
R.E.M. won this round, big time. Welcome home.

 

 DOWNLOAD: “Alligator Aviator,” Autopilot Animator,” “Uberlin,”  “All The Best” A.D. AMOROSI

 

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