Accelerate is the first studio album by that post-Berry stage band, and it is one of the best records R.E.M. have ever made. Much of Accelerate was cut in live-band takes and even tested onstage during a run in Dublin last summer, and it shows. Guitars are front and center, in slashing-chord and rusted-arpeggio crossfires, as if you've got R.E.M.'s 1982 EP Chronic Town and the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks spinning in your CD tray at the same time. "Man-Sized Wreath," "Supernatural Superserious" and "Horse to Water" rattle and zoom like buried treasures from an old club-tour set list. And there is nothing soft or shy about the slower darkness either. In "Houston," a stark snapshot of post-Katrina exile ("If the storm doesn't kill me/The government will"), crude fuzz drones and ham-fisted organ chords roll over Buck's acoustic guitar and the fighter's will in Stipe's voice ("I was taught to hold my head high. . . . Make the best of what today has") like oily floodwater.
But the R.E.M. on Accelerate is also the one I saw at New York's Madison Square Garden right after 2004's Vote for Change Tour — and two nights after Bush's re-election. Bummed but unbowed, they opened the show with loud, fast defiance — "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" — and they do the same thing here, with "Living Well Is the Best Revenge." "Don't turn your talking points on me/History will set me free/The future is ours, and you don't even rate a footnote," Stipe sings in a rapid, ecstatic near-shout over flying fists of guitar and racing bass and drums. And that's just the start of the blowback. "Nature abhors a vacuum/But what's between your ears?" he snaps in "Man-Sized Wreath," a bitter laugh at empty pomp and sound-bite patriotism, aimed at sheep and herders alike. And whoever "Mr. Richards" is, he gets his just desserts — "Mr. Richards, your conviction/Had us cheering in the kitchen" — served with Buck and McCaughey's bristling-glam guitars.
Stipe has not sounded this viscerally engaged in his singing and poetically lethal in his writing since the twilight of the Reagan administration. But he is not merely protesting the mess of the nation. Accelerate is total-victory rock, Stipe making promises he knows he can keep — "You weakened shill . . . Savor your dying breath" ("Living Well") — because he's not alone. The apocalypse is obvious in "Sing for the Submarine," an urban-holocaust update of Crosby, Stills and Nash's hippie-escape plan "Wooden Ships." So is the strength in numbers. "It's all a lot less frightening/Than we would've had it be," Stipe insists, as Mills swoops way behind him in guardian-angel harmony. (Mills' vocals, too often taken for granted, are frequent literal high points on the album, the reassuring sunlight on Stipe's gritty delivery.) And in "Hollow Man," Stipe concedes his own needs and fuck-ups, then calls for help — "Corner me and make me something" — in a stunning mix of tender-piano ballad and big-guitar chorus that sums up the commitment that makes true loves, democracies and great rock bands possible.
Ultimately, the best thing about Accelerate is that R.E.M. sound whole again, no longer three-legged but complete in their bond and purpose. "Music will provide the light you cannot resist," Stipe crows at the end of the record, in the atomic frivolity of "I'm Gonna DJ." And you can believe him — because he and his band believe in themselves again.
(Posted: Apr 3, 2008)
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Review 1 of 19
i think accelerate is kind of an old fashioned sound a very retro sound from the 80's
i like the songs living well is the best revenge, supernatural superserious, accelerate because these song are kind of fast song and the guitar arrangements and voice arrengment give an impression of a dark sound kind of more profound lyrics and melodies that make you feel inspired the lyrics are very supportive.
we have a band and we played rock and we love rock and this album kind of inspired us to write and play in a similar way to the REM songs it inspired in many different ways we decided to try to explore different sounds and lyrics that to us seem very deep and we think it can inspire more people.
Apr 16, 2008 11:52:08
Review 2 of 19
I cannot remember the last time I sat in a room with no other distractions and listened to an album. And listened and listened and listened.
Apr 4, 2008 20:53:59
Review 3 of 19
Being a huge fan of R.E.M. since around 1984, I always get psyched when they have a new record coming out. This is because I know they can turn on a dime and go in a direction that I never would have anticipated. That's the best part. And this pretty much held true up to and including New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
After that record, they put out a collection of rich, well-crafted but rather relaxing records that pretty much sounded the same to me. Up, Reveal, and Around the Sun all had their really bright spots for me, but nothing reached out and grabbed me like works before, and there were songs I just didn't like. I think losing Bill Berry made them a different band, and left them trying to find their identity without him. Michael started singing in a monotone crooning kind of way most of the time with a bunch of "I" and "You" songs (songs where most of the lyrics start with I or You) that would just not hold my interest. Keep in mind though, R.E.M. has definatly earned the right to put out whatever they want. My humble opinion is pretty much meaningless here.
Anyway, here comes Accelerate. Heavy guitars and rough around the edges. Fast bass lines and Michael souinding pissed off. About time. A definite change in direction. Something that eludes to the energy of their live shows. While the title song is the only one that clicked for me right away, I'm glad they found their rock again because I like my R.E.M. innovative and rockin'. I don't think the record has the presence and power of their Bill Berry works, but it is absolutely as step in the right direction for them. I've only listened to it a couple of times now and I'm looking forward to hearing it some more.
It makes me wince when I think of R.E.M. as an easy listening band- all that power and all that talent to kick ass being used on Wanderlust? :-(
So I will absolutely see them again when they tour like I always do because I am a fan and I love to see them play live. I will listen to Accelerate looking for peices of it to click with me knowing that R.E.M. has once again changed direction, wondering what's next for one of my all-time favorite bands....
Apr 4, 2008 08:00:48
Review 4 of 19
I rushed out and purchased Murmur back in 1983 after I had chanced to hear "Radio Free Europe" while listening to the local rock station late one night. I liked all or part of every REM album from then until Bill Berry's departure after New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
Even though I did not like Up and the two albums which followed, I cannot say that I hated everything that the three-legged dog version of REM did between 1998 to the present. I've always thought that "Daysleeper" was one of their best ballads, for instance.
Having said all of that, it sure is nice to have a guitar-driven band with a full set of drums on all tracks for this outing. It doesn't have to be Life's Rich Pageant or Document to sound punchy and fresh, and it certainly doesn't need to be a masterpiece the stature of Automatic for the People to be enjoyable. It is good to hear REM sound like the band that they can become in a live setting. For a group of men at or nearing 50 in the twenty-sixth year of their recording careers, I think that Accelerate is quite an achievement.
Apr 3, 2008 19:54:23
Review 5 of 19
REM, the band, releases their first album in 10 years. REM, the poet, activist, and artist, has never left us……for proof go give a listen to Up, Around the Sun, and Reveal. The Stipe solo album days are over...for now.
Accelerate sounds like the band went to Ireland to “play like no one is listening” …..and just happened to stumble into a pub turned studio staffed by Jacknife Lee. Buck had his guitars this time. Mills remembered his mic and I can almost imagine Bill Berry sitting in on drums for a few tunes.
Regarding Stipe…..there’s a quote I heard once that said “Depression is anger without the enthusiasm”. REM’s last 3 albums were depressed…but Accelerate is a return to an angry and enthusiastic Stipe on sudafed, caffeine, and a 3 beer buzz. Listeners will find songs that sound like they could of fit on some of REM’s earliest albums like Man-sized Wreath on New Adventures in Hi Fi or Living Well is the Best Revenge off of Life’s Rich Pageant. Mr. Richards sounds like Stipe singing for Collective Soul on a new version of the song Hope off of Up. The album ends with two back to back live-recorded bar songs called Horse to water and I’m gonna DJ which reel us back into rock n roll waters after a sleepy Stipe waxing political in a solo tune about Submarines. The majority of the album “feels” like REM of old. Welcome back.
Apr 1, 2008 16:36:39
Review 6 of 19
I've been listening to these guys since high school and "Murmur" and I have to admit they completely lost me at "Monster." "Up" had nice moments but past that, I gave up on the idea they'd put out anything approaching the incredible run of great music they had 1983 - 1994. The main problem as I saw it is that they'd become a vehicle for Michael Stipe's ego. Whether that's true or not, it certainly seemed that way, as the band in its first ten years was so great because it was truly holistic - a listener got the sense of four very talented men putting all their efforts into finely-realized finished art. Even before the devastating departure of the underappreciated Bill Berry, that holism was giving away to a one-man show. This album finally succeeds in stripping away the barnacles of pretentiousness and bringing back the just good, artful rock that was always what the band is best at.
I agree with another commenter on Stipe's lyrics: he isn't nearly as awesome as he thinks. It's too much to hope he'll ever go back to murmuring and staying back in the mix like in the band's early work, but if you tune out what he's singing and concentrate on the warm tones of his still-beautiful voice, a nice recreation of the old days is the reward. And it sounds great.
Apr 1, 2008 16:12:07
Review 7 of 19
I'm not gonna lie -- I'm an R.E.M. fan, and I say that every record they've done, including the dreadful "Monster," has something worthwhile on it. That being said, R.E.M. hasn't put out a full album's worth of great songs since "Automatic for the People" in 1992 (despite what some would have us believe, R.E.M.'s fall began two albums before Bill Berry left). This may be a retrospective album on par with U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind," but, as R.E.M. has always been superior to U2, so too is their retrospective better. "Hollow Man" would've fit right in on "Document;" "Supernatural Superserious" is another masterpiece jangle-pop single; and "Mr. Richards" sounds like a perfect fusion of "New Test Leper," "Hope," and "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" Stipe's lyrics are, as usual, pretty dreadful, but anyone who listened to R.E.M. from the beginning didn't do so because they liked the words coming out of his mouth -- no one could even understand them 'til "Lifes Rich Pageant" anyway.
Apr 1, 2008 06:09:05
Review 8 of 19
Wow. R.E.M. sounds intensely better than they have on their last 3 albums..."Supernatural Superserious," "Houston," and "Accelerate" are all highlights for me, and I can't wait to dig into the other songs. The references to "Automatic For The People" and previous albums are apt; this collection of quick, loud, fun songs revives my interest and love for my favorite band of all-time. "Around The Sun" their last album was the first R.E.M. album I ever hated, initially, even though a few of the songs grew on me, especially after hearing live versions of them. But, the overall feeling was that album was not one I wanted in my car, on my iPod, or in my general rotation. "Accelerate" is going to be a disc I listen to all spring, summer, and well into the future. Can't wait for the live shows to hear versions of these rockers, especially "Supernatural, Superserious" and "Houston," a disturbing, poetic counterpiece to the delicate "New Orleans Instrumental, #4" from "Automatic For The People." Stipe, Berry, and Buck deserve every accolade coming their way.
Mar 30, 2008 07:24:00