R.E.M.: Collapse Into Now

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R.E.M.
Collapse Into Now
(Warner Bros.)

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With 2008’s Accelerate, alternative innovators R.E.M. proved that they were just as capable of being in-your-face with fresh, sharp music. Teaming up again with superstar producer Jacknife Lee, they’ve taken a step forward and one slightly to the left with Collapse Into Now. This record has all the confidence of their last album while incorporating portions of R.E.M.’s past and future. Peter Buck has brought back his mandolin, but that doesn’t mean he shuns the jangly guitar parts for which he is so well known. Mike Mills’ backing vocals are as exuberant as ever, and Michael Stipe’s delivery and writing are more precise than they’ve ever been.

If new material from one of the most famous and productive bands in rock isn’t enough, Collapse Into Now is littered with guest appearances. Frequent collaborator Scott McCaughey plays a prominent role in the New Orleans-inspired ballad “Oh My Heart,” while the outlandish and delightful Peaches lends her voice to the upbeat “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter.” Eddie Vedder’s distinctive growl can be heard on “It Happened Today,” and the godmother of punk Patti Smith appears on “Discoverer” and “Blue.” There’s much to say about the quality, energy, and poetry contained in the brevity that is Collapse Into Now, but Stipe puts it best: “Let’s show the kids how to do it fine fine, fine.”

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