By Josh Terzino
It seems like every few years R.E.M. puts out a new record and it is met with the same ridiculous praise from some idiot critic: “Finally a return to CLASSIC R.E.M.” It isn’t always the same critic, but it is always the exact same amount of horseshit.
I’ve been a R.E.M. fan for a long time. Their first EP, Chronic Town (of which I have an original vinyl pressing), came out when I was one. The first album I heard by them in full was Green thanks to a music subscription to BMG my dad had. I’ve loved them since the first time I saw the video for “Stand” on MTv way back when that was a station that played videos (kids, a music video is a piece of art created by musicians and videographers for play on television to promote a song or album. In a retro move, Lady Gaga and Beyonce teamed up in one-Oh the memories!). Ever since then I haven’t really had a sour word for them. I would certainly never say that a return to form or anything like that were necessary. R.E.M. always has been, and always will be, the same band I fell in love with as a youngster.
Now, that isn’t to say they haven’t made some crap albums. I haven’t really liked anything they’ve put out since Reveal (on my birthday) back in 2001. In fact, the last album they put out that I really loved was Automatic For the People. That album was fantastic in 1992, and it is equally great now. Since then, the band has gone through changes, including Bill Berry leaving the band.
Having lost their drummer, the backbone of the band, R.E.M. went through a long period where they were trying to find themselves again. They tried a lot of different things. On their album Around The Sun they even included some hip-hop in the form of Q-Tip performing on the track “The Outsiders.”
Their most recent release, Accelerate, found the band going back to their earlier music for influence. It was a decent album, but was missing a connection to the audience that made those great records so vital for the college radio fans in the 80’s and early 90’s.
And now (well, tomorrow) R.E.M. deliver us an album that brings personal songs and some monster guitars and guest artists that reminds me a lot of the album Monster. No. It’s not a return to classic R.E.M., it’s a return of a band that has found their voice again. CLASSIC R.E.M. never left, it was just buried beneath a huge stack of issues they had to work through to get back to basics.
The songwriting on Collapse Into Now is some of the best Stipe has done in a long time. It’s less political than some of their more notable work has been known for, but that leaves a lot of room for songs about personal evolution, yearning, and love. Stipe’s words never hit harder than in the song “That Someone Is You,”
That someone is you
That someone is you
That someone has pulled me up and out of cartoon quicksand
Pulled me up and out of me!
Collapse Into Now is not a great R.E.M. record. Of course, a halfway decent R.E.M. record is leaps and bounds better than most of what gets put out these days. So in that respect, this is highly recommended. People who are fans of the early albums, but turned off by some of the more recent work will, I think, enjoy this more than any R.E.M. record in the past decade.
And for that critic is waiting in the wings, ready to shout from the rooftop that “CLASSIC R.E.M. IS BACK!!!” please don’t. If you were a fan of the band, you would know that they never left. Maybe you just need to grow up like they have.
What’s your favorite album in R.E.M.’ catalog? Start a discussion by commenting below!!!