Sound — 7
After 2008's 'Accelerate' offered snippets of rediscovered fire and relevance, it seemed logical that its predecessor would enhance on it - murky production, jangling riffs. Or at least torch the nearest dead letter office, like the good old days. However, Athens trio R.E.M. pride themselves on changing tack on every album, and thus 'Collapse Into Now' sees the band indulge their new found confidence in a set of wildly erratic tracks that just about hinge together. Peter Buck, the hardest member of the band to please, has been quoted saying the band "haven't been this excited about an R.E.M. album for 20 years", and Mike Mills has also compared the album to 'Automatic for the People'. Alas, the album's muddled nature sees it sit alongside their more obtuse records not sure of which classic REM album it wants to be, and instead settling to emulate all 14 of them. In terms of the overall sound, though, the LP pitches itself between the colours of Accelerate' and the sonic detail of 2001's Reveal'. Opener 'Discoverer' is a sound so furious a band half they're age couldn't muster, a full throttled rocker that would sound amazing live (shame no live dates are planned), whilst 'All The Best' comes across as one of 'Monster''s more feral moments.
Lyrics — 7
Mills had been quoted that Stipe had turned his attentions from political to personal for the new album, and in part, it's a step forward from the cul-de-sac the band were driving themselves into. 'All the Best' offers two Stipe impressions that have resonance within the record - "it's just like me to overstay my welcome", and "I'll show the kids how to do it". Stipe's lyrics have always been impressive, and they don't let up as they go along.
Overall Impression — 7
Two tracks in, it seems REM have rekindled their fire. However, Uberlin' sounds like a weary retread of Drive', without the raw emotion. Everyday Is Yours to Win' aims for the grandeur of Everybody Hurts' but falls slightly flat, whilst It Happened Today', despite its jangles, never achieves lift off. When they get it right, though, it works well. That Someone Is You' has the ragged pop formerly contained in Lifes Rich Pageant', and lasts a lean 1 minute 50. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I' is where the Automatic' comparisons are justified a beautiful, mellow acoustic number, it rivals Monty Got a Raw Deal' or Try Not To Breathe'. Mike Mills says the album "makes sense as a whole", and in part, he's right. It's tempting to call the album a consolidation of the band's strengths. Tempting, but not quite accurate. There's shades of 'Reckoning' ('Mine Smell Like Honey'), 'New Adventures In Hi Fi' ('Blue') and 'Out of Time' ('Oh My Heart'), it offers something for every R.E.M. fan. But in reality, it offers more a collection of decent tracks that aren't sure of where they're going. And, 15 albums in, maybe that's a fitting view of the trio themselves. It is still decent though!