R.E.M needs no introduction and I am too lazy to give them one. They are known as an alternative rock band, however I’ve never understood what they are an alternative to, other than bad music. They have been fairly busy this last decade, in a 21st century way, releasing an album in 2001, 2004, 2008 and now in 2011. If you are completely unfamiliar with their music, well then, their basic shtick is jangly guitars and arpeggios, Michael Stipe’s unique voice, the occasional mandolin, a combination of mellow acoustic songs and punkish, mid-tempo rockers. I am sure there is lot more that could be used to describe the music of as legendary a band as R.E.M, but what the hell.
I’ve been a big fan of their mellow, acoustic numbers; you could say that I’ve a sort of bias in the favour of Stipe over a gorgeous Peter Buck mandolin line rather than Stipe shouting tripe over distorted guitars/bass. So maybe that might somewhat explain that I like almost all the slow songs here while I would be fine if I never heard any of the rockers on Collapse. Another explanation for me liking only the mellow side of R.E.M might be that I am feeling a tad sentimental nowadays. Another factor that might be contributing is that I genuinely like the lyrics on some of the songs. It’s just the normal, “personal” type of lyrics without any big political messages which have the potential of actually connecting with the listener. So there is that.
You can call it age or whatever, but the fact is that this decade’s R.E.M ain’t no Driver 8 or Fall on Me. They had this devilish knack back in the 80’s of combining punk ethics with their own brand of sweet melancholy. Nowadays they don’t, hence there are the “rockers” and there are the “ballads” sections on this album, and the latter section rules big time on Collapse Into Now. I, for one, ain’t bothered. I know what I like and even if some critic rates this as a “6.46” on a scale of 10, and compares this with the early stuff, you just can’t get away from the fact that Stipe, Buck and Mills have made some very, very good music in the year of our lord 2011.
Recommended Tracks – Uberlin, Every Day is Yours to Win, Blue (even though it has picked more than a leaf from the holy book of Country Feedback)