Sunday, March 13, 2011

Album Review:
R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

There are very few acts that can generate enough interest from their fans to be genuinely excited after a 30+ year career for new material. Self-parody is all too familiar for any group that’s been around long enough, to go from spokesperson of a generation to an aging graybeard while trying to remain relevant all the same. Just when some may have felt R.E.M. might have stayed a little too long at the party the past 10 years or more, Collapse Into Now returns to the form which brought the group their early 90’s notoriety which made them a household name.

For their 15th studio effort, Collapse Into Now, was a name suggested by legendary proto-punk poet and admirer of R.E.M. front-man Michael Stipe, Patti Smith, who also contributes backing vocals to a couple of tracks. But, had they instead decided to entitle this new collection of songs “Out of Time pt. II”, they wouldn’t have been too far off with a striking comparison that evident. Peter Buck was even quoted as saying the threesome hasn’t been as excited about an R.E.M. album “in the last 20 years”; the exact amount of time passed since Out of Time was originally released. Coincidence?

The new tracks on Collapse Into Now such as “Ɯberlin” make a perfect companion next to older pieces such as “Losing My Religion” or “Texarcana”, while the new ballad “Oh My Heart” easily compliments the jangly arrangement of Out of Time’s “Half A World Away”. Even the upbeat and quirky “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” shows the eccentricity side of the band reflecting back to earlier days with cuts such as “Stand” and “Shiny Happy People”. All enjoyable none the same. Stand out tracks on Collapse reflecting vintage R.E.M. include “It Happened Today” featuring prominent backing vocals from Eddie Vedder, the bouncy first single “Mine Smell Like Honey”, and the infectious and beautifully arranged “Walk It Back”.

R.E.M. has done a 20 year full-circle with this new effort, and unlike the past few releases, there’s very little filler to be found. Multiple listens in this collection are in order, and once again, the trio has found the formula that originally made us stand up and take notice. I’m already predicting Collapse Into Now will show up in many best-of year-end lists.

4 out of 5

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