Collapse Into Now
Warner Bros. Records
There isn’t much that I can say about R.E.M. that hasn’t already been said. They started out as an underground garage band in the ’80s and morphed into one of the biggest acts of the early ’90s, only to become a pseudo-electronic trio (sparked by drummer Bill Berry leaving the group) as cheesy-pop was exploding in the late ’90s and early 2000s. They meandered in that electro-pop phase until the band’s rock resurgence in 2008 with Accelerate. Their latest album Collapse Into Now encompasses a little bit from each of their phases to make a greatest hits of new songs, conveniently skipping their electro era.
The pace of the lead single “Uberlin” is very much like a guitar-lead version of “Nightswimming” from Automatic for the People. “It Happened Today” sounds like it would be right at home on Out of Time especially with about half a dozen people singing at the end of the song (including the under-recognized Peter Buck and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder). It’s the poppiest song on the album.
“Mine Smell Like Honey” could have come directly from Monster or, if it was recorded in mono, Document, with obtuse lyrics like “You’re going to take the leading chair at the fairground/ You’re going to sing the praises of your fruit/ Mine smell like honey.”
The acoustic “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” is this album’s version of “Low” (from Out of Time) or “You Are the Everything” (from Green).
The band also has a couple of other guest spots that send this record from really good, to great. The techno sexpot Peaches contributes vocals on the strangely-titled “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter,” while Patti Smith adds some killer vocals to the instant crowd-energizing opening track “Discoverer.” She also adds vocals to the cryptic last track “Blue.” The song begins with lead singer Michael Stipe speaking over what sounds like a fuzzy radio and a decent backbeat, but as Stipe ends his diatribe, Smith comes in with her aching vocals bridging the gap between “Blue” and a “Discoverer” reprise. It sounds strange, but somehow they make it work.
Collapse Into Now is another fantastic record by one of rock’s quintessential bands and it proves that they are back to form.