Damaged Gears

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Damage Reviews: R.E.M. – Accelerate

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Wait.  What’s Damage doing, reviewing albums?  Going back to my previous post, it’s more of the realization that the gears are there for one thing and one thing only-delivery of media to my brains.  May as well start reviewing some of the content that belongs on the DAP as well as the gears themselves. 

Unabashedly, I can say that R.E.M. is one of my favorite bands.  However, they’ve been not the same since 1998, when Bill Berry left the band, and left R.E.M. as a three legged dog.  A three legged dog is one thing, from what I can gather: earnest.  In their earnestness they’ve recorded and released four albums thus far:

Up was a very interesting album, and though nowhere near the level of its predecessors (the very underrated New Adventures in Hi-Fi, the glam filled fun but ultimately vain and hollow Monster, and the everyone’s favorites Automatic for the People and Out of Time) it was enough to give one hope.  That future of R.E.M. in whatever form and shape without Mr. Berry, was bright.

Then came Reveal and the rather dreadful Around the Sun

Sure there are some gems here and there (I’ve taken liking to I’ve Been High these days and the occasional Final Straw & Leaving New York).  However, even with multiple listens, Reveal acted as the total opposite, hiding more and more with repeated listens.  And Around the Sun just reconfirmed that R.E.M. shouldn’t really dabble in ballads.

So with that, there was very little expectations with Accelerate and that probably makes the album more enjoyable.  Being better than your predecessors is a great start.  Despite this, though, the album has to stand up to repeated listening sessions, which is what I’m doing now.  Initially, it’s a bit dense, furious, chaotic, and very base.  Hrm, didn’t Stipe say something about Around the Sun being darker and more primitive than the previous?  Better late than never.

Beneath the chaos and the fury lies, however, something more.  Like the Bad Day or It’s the End of the World… there is controlled fury, and directed chaos.  You feel like you’re in the middle of something unpredictable and uncontrollable.  However, Stipe, Mills, and Bucks are, for the most part, in full control of the ride.  In that way, it’s indeed the return the earlier jangle sound, with added testosterone.  It’s as if someone had dialed up the subtle and latent anger present in Around the Sun (face it, it’s the R.E.M. passive-aggressive album) and gave it a target.  For that, we’re all thankful.

Better late than never, and something that their peer, U2, figured out earlier this decade (post-Pop). 

The Good: Short and Breezy, Chaotic balanced with tight controls.
The Bad: Can be too chaotic for those who left (and actually like) after Reveal, Around the Sun.  Feels like it’s very unfocused at times.
The Ugly: Four years late.

Grade: B

P.S. Damage recommends repeated listening of New Adventures, possibly the most underrated album by R.E.M.  Yep, even more so than Green.

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Written by Damage

06/2/08 at 12:13 am

Posted in Soapbox

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