Easily the best work they’ve recorded since 1994’s multi-platinum Monster, this disc represents R.E.M.’s thunderous return to making interesting, fun music that connects to the listener in a way that doesn’t induce sleeping and utter boredom.
From 1996 to 2004 the group released four albums. Each contained one or two tracks worth listening to, but on the whole each of the releases were decidedly incohesive and boring. The 11 tracks that compose Accelerate are not only excellent individually, but they feel good together as a whole, flowing smoothly to a conclusion without any filler.
The only thing that the listener can go into this record expecting is a new surprise within every track. Accelerate kicks off on an upbeat note with “Living Well Is The Best Revenge,” a raucous track (by R.E.M. standards) which would easily fit in on a jukebox in a biker bar. The tune sounds like the love child of The Rolling Stones and ’70s punk rock, furthest from anything that would be expected on a R.E.M. album.
“Horse To Water” reflects a similar punky vibe, with pounding drums courtesy of former Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin. Rieflin brings an interesting element to the band as he’s a well-known drummer in the realm of industrial music. On the dark track “Houston,” he uses an interesting fuzzy tone on his drums that adds to the eerie mood of the song.
The album’s first single, “Supernatural Superserious,” brings back memories of the early ’90s. The upbeat track is sure to not only please longtime fans of the group, but also bring new listeners into the fold. It’s almost guaranteed that “Man-Sized Wreath” is going to be the second single, as it recalls similar memories and is equally as fun.
“Hollow Man” has a deceptive intro, beginning on a morose note, with only Stipe’s vocals laying bare over piano keys and a weepy guitar. Just as it begins to feel like the track is going to become the second most depressing song in the world next to “Everybody Hurts,” the drums kick in and the track actually becomes a fun sing-along number.
“Sing For The Submarine” and the title track are both extremely guitar-driven tracks that hold onto the listener’s attention and don’t let go until they’re finished. It’s literally impossible to listen to the title track and do anything else at the same time. The listener will drop whatever they’re doing to focus on the driving guitar riffs of the song, falling into the dark mood of the track and letting the melody take over for three and a half minutes of bliss.
Two of the best tracks related to the album are only available as bonus tracks on iTunes, “Redhead Walking” and “Airliner.” The first track is a cover of a song by Beat Happening, a groundbreaking indie group from Washington. This is one of the few cases where the cover far surpasses the original. The lo-fi track is transformed into a throbbing, sexy piece that sounds like something Iggy and the Stooges would have created in their prime.
“Airliner” is an instrumental track that owes much to surf music of the 1960’s. This track gives guitarist Peter Buck his time to shine, as he delivers his trademark distorted guitar work over a solid rhythm section compliments of bassists Mike Mills and Rieflin.
Overall, Accelerate is an excellent album that will appeal to anyone who enjoys music, even to people who detest the group’s previous work. Despite any sort of creative block that may have stopped the band from creating memorable work within the last 14 years, they’ve proved that they’re back, and hopefully here to stay.
Jordan Healy is a sophomore film major at UNLV. He’s a newcomer in the field of journalism, but hopes to create a career for himself, specializing in rock music.
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