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REM – Collapse Into Now

REM, Collapse Into Now

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

YOU write off REM at your peril, it would seem! The knives were being sharpened following the release of Around The Sun (an album we liked), which some hastily predicted marked the beginning of the end.

But as they look to celebrate their 30th anniversary with the release of their 15th long player, they would appear to have lost none of their enthusiasm, combining sharp moments of free-flowing rock reminiscent of their Green days with thought-provoking slow burners (or ballads) that resonate as strongly as those that helped to make Automatic For The People and Out of Time such landmark releases.

The mix of fast and slow tracks is much keener, too… a criticism of the last album seemingly addressed!

Collapse Into Now kicks off with the high-flying rock of Discoverer, arguably their most rocking track since What’s The Frequency Kenneth?, which drops explosive riffs with a shouted chorus and some lively drum patterns.

It’s a heady opener that’s further augmented by All The Best… another seemingly defiant two fingered salute from Michael Stipe and co that finds the lead singer comparing himself to Quasimodo while declaring: “I’ll show the kids how to do it!”

Uberlin then slows down the tempo notably, with some acoustic licks that hark back to Losing My Religion Days and a more poignant vocal performance from Stipe that declares: “I am flying on the star into a meteor tonight.” It’s great.

REM’s capacity for social commentary is fully on show during Oh My Heart, another earnest slow-burner that finds Stipe commentating ruefully on the state of a post-Katrina New Orleans, while accordions and mandolins shuffle for position to beguiling, suitably melancholy effect.

But just when you potentially feared the lively stuff had seen its day, It Happened Today picks up the tempo and recaptures the spark of their Out of Time days once more, while Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and The Hidden Cameras’ Joel Gibb provide backing to the tick-tock riffs and moody atmospherics of Every Day Is Yours To Win, which drops wonderful juxtapositions such as “it’s not all cherry pie” with “it’s all there waiting for you”. It’s another of the highlights.

In truth, though, this is an album that doesn’t really put many footsteps wrong… with further gems coming from the breezy guitar pop-rock of Mine Smell Like Honey (all backing harmonies and catchy sing-along vibe), the lower tempo Walk It Back and its subtle blend of piano and acoustics, and That Someone Is You, which even channels a ‘60s Brit-pop vibe more akin to bands like The Byrds.

Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I, meanwhile, finds haunted vocals combining with more winning acoustic licks and brooding drums, along with lyrics such as “help me off to sleep” and “we live and dream about our heroes”. It’s a track to rival the brooding likes of Leaving New York.

Final offering Blue then rounds things off in epic style, combining Stipes’ spoken word vocals with a fuzzy, electrifying guitar from Peter Buck and a sultry supporting vocal from Patti Smith, until recapturing the early fire of the album late on by revisiting the punchy guitar riffs of Discoverer. It’s a heady cocktail to round things off with – but one that leaves you feeling mighty fine.

REM have, once again, surpassed the expectations of many to deliver another great album – one that has already been hailed by Buck as their best collection of songs in 20 years. It’s tempting to agree, for this is a truly great listen.

Download picks: It Happened Today, Every Day Is Yours To Win, Walk It Back, Blue, Discoverer, Mine Smell Like Honey, Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I, Uberlin

Track listing:

  1. Discoverer
  2. All The Best
  3. Uberlin
  4. Oh My Heart
  5. It Happened Today
  6. Every Day Is Yours To Win
  7. Mine Smell Like Honey
  8. Walk It Back
  9. Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter
  10. That Someone Is You
  11. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I
  12. Blue