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REM - Around The Sun


Review: Jack Foley

THE word from some critics seems to suggest that REM have lost it, given the lack of inspiration surrounding their latest album, Around The Sun.

Not so, according to this critic. For while the new long-player certainly owes much in style to Automatic For The People, and is certainly a lot more ponderous than recent singles, Bad Day and Animal, there is still plenty to admire in its thought-provoking journey.

Kicking off with the beautifully melancholic Leaving New York, the album then proceeds to deliver a collection of songs that can be as hard-hitting as they are heart-breakingly poignant.

Certainly, in tracks such as I Wanted To Be Wrong, Michael Stipe's voice recalls the yearning of Everybody Hurts, while delivering some telling social commentary on the current state of America as he sees it.

Likewise, Final Straw, in which an angry Stipe defiantly states 'now I don't believe and I never did that two wrongs make a right, if the world were filled with the likes of you, then I'm putting up a fight, putting up a fight'.

But Around The Sun isn't merely about making political statements (even though REM seem to have re-discovered their voice). There are some typically flamboyant efforts, too, when they do actually seem to be concentrating on their own music.

Principal among them is the excellent track, The Outsiders, which features a memorable rap from Q-Tip towards the end, and which offers something a little different to boot.

Boy In The Well smacks of classic REM and comes complete with a wonderful musical interlude, while Aftermath is one of the more breezy tracks, with elements of country thrown into the mix.

The brooding High Speed Train also features a nice piece of flamenco guitar midway through, as well as a typically haunting chorus.

The album also finds the core members of the group (Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills) joined by drummer, Bill Rieflin, and instrumentalists, Ken Stringfellow and Scott McCaughey, who serve to lend it a more expansive feel, instrumentally.

Yet, while it might not rate as one of the band's all-time great efforts, it does remain a fascinating, rich and ultimately very rewarding affair that confirms Stipe as one of the great songwriters of modern times.

When REM talk, it's always worth listening.

Click here to find out more about REM!

 

Track listing:
1. Leaving New York
2. Electron Blue
3. The Outsiders
4. Make It All Ok
5. Final Straw
6. I Wanted to Be Wrong
7. Wander Lust
8. The Boy in the Well
9. Aftermath
10. High Speed Train
11. Worst Joke Ever
12. The Ascent of Man
13. Around the Sun

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