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Review

R.E.M. adds to impressive resume with new album ‘Accelerate’

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April 24, 2008

Michael Stipe shouts like an apocalyptic gospel on “Living Well is the Best Revenge:” “It’s only when your poison spins / Into the life you’d hoped to live / And suddenly you wake up in a shaken panic now.”  “Living Well is the Best Revenge” is perhaps R.E.M.’s angriest song since, well, ever. “All your sad and lost apostles,” Stipe continues, “Hum my name and flare their nostrils / Choking on the bones you tossed to them.”  These words, bled from a band who opened a concert with “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” the very same night Bush Jr. was re-elected, are angry, spiteful, mocking and are some of R.E.M.’s very best.  Not since 1987’s “Document” have they rocked with such finesse and style, clearly making their new album, “Accelerate,” a classic in an already impressive track record.

The disc is both dark and humorous.  On “Houston,” guitarist Peter Bucks brings small eruptions of the classic “Losing My Religion” while Stipe, in perfect irony, chants “If the storm doesn’t kill me, the government will / Gotta get that out of my head / It’s a new day today and the coffee is strong, I finally got some rest.”  The same lightness is applied to “Until the Day is Done:” a folk-like guitar strums along like a campfire ditty, while we’re told of a lost battle and a “business first flat earther.”

Those are the light ones.  “Accelerate” uses guitar feedback like a saw blade, cutting through the air that will ring in your ears long after it’s over.  “Horse to Water” mimics the Violent Femme’s “Country Death Song,” invoking familiar feelings of drowning everything loved because you are told to.  And I don’t know who “Mr. Richards” is, but I wouldn’t want to be in his suit as Stipes lectures, “Mr. Richards your conviction / Had us cheering in the kitchen / Now the jury’s eating pigeon pie.” Ouch.

The album isn’t perfect, falling under the shadow of R.E.M. classics like “Out of Time” or “Automatic for the People,” as there’s almost too much angst ridden in here, but honestly, who can blame them?

“Death is pretty final / I’m collecting vinyl / I’m gonna DJ at the end of the world,” R.E.M. claims on the album’s final song, “I’m Gonna DJ,” a pulsating beat of chaos and clarity. Hey, if the world’s going to end, you may as well go out with a bang.

Matthew Loosbrock is a student at UW-River Falls.