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
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
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.
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
10. High Speed Train
11. Worst Joke Ever
12. The Ascent of Man
13. Around the Sun