Sound — 9
R.E.M. have created their most guitar-driven record in over a decade. Gone are the lush string arrangements of 'Reveal' and the sleepy sound created on 'Around the Sun'. While this reviewer considers the former to be an enjoyable, albeit 'ho hum' record, it was not what I knew R.E.M. for. The opening track 'Living Well Is The Best Revenge' exposes the guitar-heavy sound the band was so excited about sharing with the rest of the world. This sound is maintainted during the course of the album. It is a plaesure to hear Buck's jangly guitar on songs like 'Sing For The Submarine'. He also manages to create a heavy sound on lead single 'Supernatural Superserious', a song built around a simple but effective, chord proggression. I have struggled to find many bad songs on this album. Perhaps the title track 'Accelerate' can be viewed as a weak track, but overrall the album does not suffer from the inclusion of any songs. Arguably the best song is the shortest, 'Houston', at 2:05. This is R.E.M. as we used to know it, it's a pleasure to be re-acquanited.
Lyrics — 8
Michael Stipe's voice sounds great on this record. His signature low growl is back and his vocals soar above the guitar on the political 'Until The Day Is Done'. Michael Stipe has commented that he "works best under pressure" and as such the band recorded the album quickly. It certainly seems to have worked for Stipe. More importantly Stipe sounds excited about the songs he is singing. He shows a new political passion in songs like 'Until The Day Is Done' and 'Sing For The Submarine'. It is exciting as a listener to hear the singer so excited and this sets a good mood for the rest of the album. Michael Stipe's howl is on show on the final two tracks 'Horse To Water' and 'I'm Gonna DJ'. Both fun tracks that reveal how Stipe must've felt when he was a teenager.
Overall Impression — 9
This album may not be a step forward for R.E.M. but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Over the last 8 years many critics have commented that R.E.M. had "lost their way". Whether or not this is true this album certainly sounds a lot like their earlier work. In this sense the album has not taken the band to any new territory, rather they have re-traced their steps in a most fantastic and rewarding way. The album as a whole is fantastic, everything seems to have come together at the right time for R.E.M. While the rest of the world may not appreciate it 'Accelerate' has shown that 3 middle-aged men can do for alternative-rock, what no teenager has been able to do for the last decade.