Over the last 20 years, R.E.M. have undoubtedly been one of my favourite bands. I’m not quite sure therefore why this is the first time they have been featured on MPT although there is little doubting that ‘Accelerate’ easily qualifies on its manic-quotient.
‘Accelerate’ is being touted as R.E.M.’s return to form after their last 2 extremely disappointing LPs and it’s been billed as a fan pleasing effort. But you would have to query that latter statement as both ‘Reveal’ and ‘Around The Sun’ were arguably attempts to connect with the mass market the band commanded around the time of ‘Automatic For The People’. No, this is aimed at a more narrow constituency – those that liked ‘Document’ and ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’.
In reality ‘Accelerate’ owes more to the fan-base decimating ‘Monster’ than any other R.E.M. record and pretty much everything you’re read about this record is true. It’s loud, it’s fast and it’s brutally short. In fact it’s probably the record everybody was expecting when the early talk of ‘Around The Sun’ was about anger. The big question is ‘is it any good’?
I was initially sceptical and, despite the approach, it’s not an immediate LP. Like ‘Monster’ it’s a grower. You have to get past the adrenaline rush and the dense production before deciding if the tunes are any good but it’s the first R.E.M. LP in donkeys that I’ve wanted to put straight back on as soon as I’ve finished it.
This is best illustrated by lead single ‘ Supernatural Superserious’ which I was initially underwhelmed by. But it now draws me back and again.
The pace is relentlessly high but fortunately on the few occasions that it dips the songs are just as good. ‘Until The Day Is Done’ is one of the LP’s more restrained moments but also one of the best songs whilst ‘Living Well …’, ‘Man-sized Wreath’ and ‘Horse To Water’ are fantastic uptempo songs. Even ‘I’m Gonna DJ’, a not entirely satisfying live experience, brings the LP to an appropriately thumping conclusion
‘Accelerate’ is unquestionably an R.E.M. record – musically there’s hints on the band’s previous work throughout (and ‘Sing For The Submarine’ is, in part, a lyrical cut and paste job of previous song titles). But after all this time that’s pretty much inevitable.
It must become harder and harder for Buck, Mills and Stipe to come up with something different but ‘Accelerate’ will do nicely for now.