100 for 2000 – #90. R.E.M. – Accelerate

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2008 – #10.  R.E.M. – Accelerate
(Warner Bros)

I have loved R.E.M. for as long as I can remember loving music. As a kid, in my uncle’s shop, hearing the One I Love and It’s the End Of the World As We Know It – god I would have been 6? I was too young to understand how they then jumped to a major label, all I knew was a few summers later Losing My Religion was my favourite song in the whole world. I wish I could say it was because I was in tune with such critical tastes at such a young age. But really, it’s probably because they weren’t as scary as Metallica, which is what my brother used to listen to at the time.

Along came Everybody Hurts. Now, I had no idea it was on a different album from Losing My Religion. Of course, I love the song. It was parodied almost immediately on my fave show at the time (The Late Show by the D-Generation). Monster and it’s radio singles came and I loved them, but the first record I ever bought of theirs was New Adventures In Hi Fi. It was bought without hearing a note. I remember wondering why this album wasn’t on radio as much as the songs before it. I mean, it’s just as good (if not better. It’s probably my fave REM record).

Of course, I went back eventually and got everything. And I followed them forwards too. The lovely but troubled Up record. The summery bubblegum of Reveal. The plodding and terrible Around the Sun. It was hard to believe in this band sometimes, but then you’d hear an old song in a new light, and bam, you’d be back there. For at least 3 months after every REM album release I am obsessed by the band. But before that, I’m always nervous.

So, the nice thing about working at Warners – when REM announced those dublin rehearsal shows, I got to go. 13 new tracks, followed by the trainspotter’s encore. The songs sounded great. Everyone wants them to ‘return to form’. I kind of just wanted them to show some life again.

So having peaked behind the curtain, I was very excited about this album. I was typically obsessed when the album did come out. The first single, Supernatural Superserious, was easily their best work in a decade. The tour was amazing, especially a couple of small showcase gigs.

Funny what two years can do though. Supernatural Superserious aside, I’ve come to realise how hollow this album is. It sounds like it should be great. The guitars, the harmonies, the brevity, and tempos – all what we want from REM, right? I guess be careful what you ask for.

The rockers on this album are solid, but by the numbers. Horse To Water, Man Sized Wreath etc… just adds nothing to their catalogue. We’ve heard this before. Living Well’s the Best Revenge I think is slightly better, but only slightly. Where has Stipe‘s muse gone? He’s not only talking crap, but his great artistic heart used to have big ideas – politics (Document), death (Automatic For the People), love (Up)…Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The ballads are equally meandering. Nice, and not as bad as the worse moments on Around the Sun.

The saviour is I’m Gonna DJ. It doesn’t sound like anything other than a thematic cousin to It’s the End Of the World. Electro meets the Byrds, with no song structure and truly dissonant in some parts – it’s talented musicians pushing their boundaries, but in complete control.

FUCK! I want more of that shit.

Stop trying to make me happy anymore REM. They need to leave WB, and stop playing stadiums. Forget radio hits. And please, please, be the band version of someone like Tom Waits – career wise. Show us what you guys can do with no shackles. I would love to hear this. I would love to be surprised by an REM record, the way I had been up to Up.

This record comes in at number 10 because it was a big part of my year, and I did wear this album out. But I’m nervous about the next one.

REM’s Supernatural Superserious. Their best song in a decade.

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