The question for me is where has R.E.M. been and what have they been doing lately? I wasn't particularly interested in them in the 1980's: I always thought it was much ado about the nothing, or at least the average. 'Accelerate' is their latest studio release, four years from the dismal 'Around The Sun.' Their best work ended with 'Automatic For The People' in 1992; and I still was not overwhelmed. So, obviously I'm an ambivalent and disinterested listener to this original American rock band. Yet, with 'Accelerate' something different is going on. Sure, it's the same old R.E.M. dredging up their usual style for a modern time, but there's something unusual here. The sound is more raw and stripped down, the guitars stronger, and they really sound like a cohesive rock band. But is this a better R.E.M for a new century? I wonder.
The whole work is incredibly short and will probably leave the true fan disappointed. However, there is some great R.E.M. rock here. Even as 'Accelerate' opens, 'Living Well Is The Best Revenge' blisters with rock and roll excitement as does the following number 'Man Sized Wreath.' The title track moves with a good groove and feels easy on the ears. On quieter numbers like 'Until The Day Is Done,' lyric, arrangement, and musicianship gel into a smooth presentation. But then there's mediocre work like 'Mr. Richards,' or 'Sing For The Submarine' (where do they get these song titles). Then there are those songs that R.E.M. can only repeat the past. Such a song is 'Horse To Water' which paces like 'It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).' The old is easily out performs the new in this case. Quite possibly the only song that shows promise of creativity beyond past laurels is the concluding number, 'I'm Gonna DJ.' But hope is often fleeting
In conclusion, I'm still not wholly impressed by R.E.M. Maybe it's Stipe's completely predictable vocals and sociopolitical arrogance. Maybe it's that 2000 R.E.M. still sounds like 1980's R.E.M. Maybe, on a whole, 'Accelerate' is simply ordinary because it rocks in the usual R.E.M. fashion. Fans should buy it; otherwise, it's a pass.
- Craig Hartranft
R.E.M. tries to bring back the glory to a great career on 'Accelerate.' It has a great raw sound with the guitars roaring in the forefront. But this is still the old 80's R.E.M. They're mining the past and adding not-so-clever nuances hoping the listener will not catch on. This is for fans. You will not miss anything by passing over this album.