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R.E.M.
Collapse Into Now
Warner

It's been some years since I followed every step R.E.M. took, but I've briefly heard their albums from the last 10 years. Collapse into Now is the 15th studio album by the Athens, GA alternative rock, veterans, and even though they might not be that alternative anymore, they still don't fit in the mainstream. This even though they've sold huge amounts of records and play stadiums. Buck, Mills and Stipe have been travelling around to do this album, which was recorded in Berlin (Germany), plus in Nashville and New Orleans stateside. And, of course a lot of guest musicians dropped by: long-time sidekick Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows and The Minus 5 - where he plays with Peter Buck. He's also bass man for Robyn Hitchcock's touring band, The Venus 3, also with Buck in it). McCaughey's even got writing credits on one track here. Patti Smith returns for a vocal job (as she did on "E-Bow the Letter" on New Adventures in Hi-Fi back in 1994). Eddie Vedder steps to the mic for one song. Lenny Kaye (of Patti Smith Group) plays guitar on two tracks. Canadian (Berlin based) electronic artist Peaches adds vocals to one track, and Joel Gibb (of The Hidden Cameras) to another.

R.E.M. sort of follow their fixed formula, with a mixture of some slow and quiet ballads, some mid-tempo tunes, topped with a few up-tempo rock songs. This makes Collapse Into Now sort of a blend of Automatic for the People (1992) and Accelerate (2008). Quite some good and catchy songs, plus some tougher ones, with more speed and punch (which I like). That said I think R.E.M. recycle themselves quite a lot. many of the songs are similar to songs from the R.E.M.'s catalogue or songbook. F.i. is "Discoverer" a 'new' "Finest Worksong", and "Überlin" a 'new' "Drive", etc. Myself I prefer their faster songs, like "All The Best" and "Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter" (which is the one featuring Peaches and Lenny Kaye), and "That Someone Is You", simply because they're energetic and punchy, holding steam as well as being catchy. "Blue", with Patti Smith, is just what I expected a song by R.E.M. with Patti Smith to be like, quite a serious song, slow, with spoken word parts. It's the key track of the album, of course, and '...collapse into one...' is part of the lyrics. But, what's cool with it is the return to the first track, "Discoverer", which is blended into the song at the end. All of a sudden the last song is the first song, chorus and all, like the album's on eternal repeat.

When listening to Collapse Into Now I come to think of: do we really need another album by R.E.M.? Should bands stop making albums after a certain number of records, or a number of years in activity? Should 10-12 albums be the maximum limit? And could 20 years be the limit before retirement? All this with the exception of Neil Young and Tom Waits, of course... Well, Collapse Into Now isn't bad, and R.E.M. could probably keep on putting out albums like this, like ever, forever. Making most people happy.

Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our R.E.M. articles/reviews: Bad Day EP, Losing My Religion, Roncalliplatz, Cologne, Germany, 12.05.01.

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