Being counted out is possibly the best thing that could have happened to this band, as 28 years into their illustrious career, when R.E.M. had been relegated to being called a 'great band' in the past tense, the band have come out swinging on Accelerate. NEVER has a band this long in the tooth made such an angry, vital, and totally contemporary and relevant record. This is album is indeed a complete 180 turn from Around the Sun. It clocks in at half the time of the previous record; the drums are FINALLY back and in full force, Peter's guitar is fully plugged in, and Mike Mills' is finally harmonizing again. And lest I forget, Michael Stipe's voice sounds utterly fantastic. Just listen to him 'wow' and 'ow' on Man Sized Wreath and yoyu can tell, Michael's playful sarcasm is in full swing, and he sounds absolutely energized, whereas he sounded tired on the last record.
The songs are short and hit like a ton of bricks. If anyone remembers the anger on The Final Straw from the last record, well this album is like a full album's worth of that song with the amps turned way up and the songs at full speed. Living Well Is The Best Revenge is the best and loudest opener since Whats the Frequency Kenneth or maybe even Finest Worksong. Man-Sized Wreath is an unconventional but totally catchy rocker and Michael sounds absolutely fantastic and pissed off and Mike Mills backing vocals are terrific! 'Supernatural Superserious' sounds like the closest thing to a classic R.E.M single on this record. It may not be the best song here, but it is definitely the most conventionally catchy song to be found here. Hollow Man follows and sounds like a total piano ballad until suddenly, the guitars come in. What a great fake out on the band's part and it sounds like it would be a great single. 'Houston' sounds like it would fit perfectly on Automatic for the people; very folksy...reminds me a lot of Try Not to Breathe musically. "Until The Day Is Done' is another folksy ballad that sounds like it would have been perfect on Automatic...it also sounds a lot like Swan Swan H from Lifes Rich Pageant. Its one of my favorites on the record and if it weren't so openly political, it would make for a great single. 'Horse To Water' is just pure adrenaline and definitely one of the best full on rockers the band has made in a long time. I know it sounds like repetition but its very angry, and definitely a bruiser. Im Gonna DJ is a full on glam stomper that the band played on the last tour. Its a really fun post apocalyptic that not quite as Its the End of the World, but almost as fun and inspired nonetheless and its a perfect closer to the record.
Anyone accusing the band of making this record to satisfy record company execs, would be absolutely wrong. On the contrary, the majority of the songs are so openly political, that Top 40 will not likely touch them at all (if U2 cant get on the radio, R.E.M. wont either). R.E.M. seems to be reaching back into the ire and anger of their indie IRS days, as this sounds more like an updated 'Lifes Rich Pageant' and 'Document' than it does any of their Warner Brothers records (with Monster being the exception) as it rocks aplenty, and it is a very righteously angry album except now the anger is placed in the Bush administration and not the Reagan administration as it was in their indie days. But, rest assured, this is not a nostalgic record. It is definitely firmly placed in the here and now. Also like Lifes Rich Pageant, this album is a solidly good album all the way through, without there necessarily huge singles waiting to be plucked out. There is nary a bad track on here. It is not QUITE classic album in the vein of Murmur or Automatic...but it is indeed a necessary and much needed addition to their discography and their best album since at least New Adventures in Hi Fi. R.E.M. are back and they're coming out swinging!