Sound — 9
To R.E.M. followers, the 2008 creation titled *Accelerate* exceeded expectations and fulfilled appetites longing for that rich electric guitar sound. The release was energetic, pushing both listeners and the band members themselves to believe the group had returned to form. Three years later, *Collapse Into Now* holds the same feeling and injects the same rush with every stimulating hook and stirring melody. Acting as an opener, "Discoverer" pushes to be the sign of R.E.M.'s re-emergence but is in fact only a stepping stone. "All The Best" showcases Michael Stipe and co. getting their rage on with a classic rock beat for a steady two and a half minutes before sliding into "Uberlin", a number fueled by guitarist Peter Buck's acoustic fingerpicking. It doesn't stop there as the humanitarian anthem "Oh My Heart" and the force that is "Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter" continue to show R.E.M.'s ability to flirt with the different areas of music, switching from a teary, soft-spoken tune to a high-octane track in a heartbeat. The drastic shift can play with a listener's mood a bit too much at times, but the glowing chemistry between the Georgia outfit and the hints of vintage punk and 90s' modern rock make sure you're clinging onto the rollercoaster until the ride comes to a stop.
Lyrics — 8
Some may disagree, but it's hard to picture R.E.M. with a different singer or a different voice. *Collapse Into Now*practically cradles diversity and with vocalist Michael Stipe howling out trademark harmonies and vague, sometimes highly complex lines, another vocalist would appear out of character among the group's style. Take the closer "Blue" for example; distortion pummels your ears while Stipe recites spoken-word poetry and then enters Patti Smith, singing her heart out but seeming awkwardly out of place. To say Stipe is irreplaceable isn't a negative note; the 51-year-old is a respected frontman and his talents are evident on the release. "You're going to sing the praises of your fruit," he graciously mutters on "Mine Smell Like Honey" before rolling into casually addictive chorus reminiscent of "Orange Crush", a number, similar to the new material, that's difficult to mimic when drifting into various degrees of emotion.
Overall Impression — 8
Similar to The Tragically Hip and Neil Young, R.E.M. tend to fall into the "old man" category of rock n' roll the young generation rolls their eyes at. *Collapse Into Now* is a disc that should not be ignored; the craft put into each song mapped out on the album are hard not to replay. When R.E.M. become personal, their lyrics and intricate harmonies strike a chord with you while their newly discovered uptempo rock swings create a sense of atonishment and pleasure (*if *you are a rock fan). With no tour in sight and a next album seeming unlikely, *Collapse Into Now* would fit the role of a career closer perfectly. That is if the fifteenth studio record were indeed that. The road ahead seems cloudy, but this collection of alternative rock is simply an ode to what bore a musical style, a mixtape of memorable songs and most of all, a career.