Collapse Into Now
Released: Monday 7 March 2011
In a very similar vein to Thom Yorke's frustratingly reluctant desire to create another stunning album, to many a casual observer R.E.M. have almost defiantly refused to build on the acoustic success of both Out of Time and Automatic for the People and instead embraced their earlier punky-rock roots. While subsequent albums have shown either patchy brilliance (Monster, Up, Reveal) or despair (Around the Sun) only Accelerate and the underrated New Adventures in Hi-Fi have shown exactly what Stipe and co are really capable of. Now, with a lot of positive noise from the band comes their 15th album, Collapse into Now, promising a return to form which, for a huge part delivers admirably.
First taster 'Discoverer' brings us anthemic stadium rock, prepped and ready to be shouted out across late-night star-strewn arena skies, while 'All the Best' echoes Accelerate's rockier edge with its crunching, thumping guitar. "It's just like me to overstay my welcome," Stipe sings over Buck's enthused guitar rock. With the mandolin safely dusted off and re-strung after nearly 20 years, both 'Uberlin', 'Oh My Heart' and 'It Happened Today' being us the acoustic melancholy that might appeal to a wider fan base; the middle song reflecting the band's response to New Orleans' post-Katrina upheaval while the latter makes good use of Eddie Vedder's backing vocals to harmonious effect.
Sounding eerily similar to Richard Hawley's 'Baby You're My Light', 'Every Day is Yours to Win' comes halfway through. A melodically plucked guitar underpins a beautiful ballad, rarely seen since Up's fabulous At My Most Beautiful which is sure to grab many a listeners' attention. "I cannot tell a lie, it's not all cherry pie/ But it's all there waiting for you," Stipe sings over one of the album's highlights and possibly their strongest song in a while. From there, lead single 'Mine Smell Like Honey' brings rock back to the fore, while 'Walk It Back's slower piano refrain recalls some of the band's sweeter moments. Things change again for the bizarrely-titled 'Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter', coming off like a rocky poppy B-52s' effort before 'That Someone is You's rock 'n' roll feel keeps things moving fast, free and fun. However, 'Marlon Brando's acoustic stirrings dampen the mood slighty, sounding much like anything off 1988's Green before Patti Smith rejoins the group for 'Blue', sounding much like previous collaboration 'E-Bow the Letter', all melancholy, circling rhythms without the latter's haunting melody, despite an ending which brings things pleasingly full circle.
So, it's another perfect example of any R.E.M. album since their major commercial breakthrough in the early 90s; a solid album with some great tracks ('Every Day', 'Uberlin', 'All the Best') amid plenty of other decent ones too. A return to form? Well, for those who've been listening, R.E.M. have rarely been out of form, and Collapse into Now proves just that.