R.E.M. – Accelerate
‘Music will provide the light you cannot resist’ sings Michael Stipe on the final track of this album. And how right he is. This is an irresistible album and R.E.M. are shining a lot more than 40 watts.
I sighed audibly with relief when I played Accelerate for the first time. I was sick to the back teeth of hearing the familiar chorus from the media of ‘return to form’ and ‘back to the glory days’. I haven’t read as much rubbish in music magazines for such a long time. They like the fact they have an angle – a reason to herald our Athens heroes again. What they fail to see is that there have always consistently been reasons.
Apart from relief I also had an immense feeling of satisfaction that had nothing to do with Accelerate but rather the previous few albums which music journalists seem to be scrambling over each other to dismiss. On hearing the urgent sounds of Accelerate I thought to myself how wonderful that REM let themselves evolve as a band enough to make All the way to Reno, Leave, E-Bow the Letter (incidentally my favourite REM track), Electron Blue, Worst Joke Ever and countless other quality tracks. Songs that they never would have made had they followed a linear line of development. Thank God they did exactly what they did I say. Don’t listen to the crap that journalists spew, REM have been just fine as they’ve been – not everyone gets that REM have never been a please-all band. They just accidentally stumbled into a few years of heightened popularity that’s all. That confuses people who like things to be explained easily.
And now they’ve evolved along their path to Accelerate. Its urgency is delicious. I grinned like a fool before I knew the tracks well enough to sing along. Over recent years REM have excelled as a live band and this album reflects that much more than any of their others. They sound like they’re putting new life into songs they’ve known for years. Ironic as they spent such a short time recording it. I had already experienced this energy when I saw them in the Olympia in Dublin last summer. Even though I knew slightly what to expect I was still pleasantly surprised. I was more than pleased, I was excited. REM sound better than ever – and that’s saying something! They are certainly rocking out – and in a wholly organic and natural sounding way. The overall sound is refreshingly frantic – crisply rock I would even venture to say. Jacknife Lee has really done a fine job here. REM are not going to go till they’re good and ready and should you doubt that in any way just lend your ears to Accelerate.