Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

R.E.M. ~ Collapse Into Now

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: alt rock
Label: Warner Bros.
Year: 2011
Home: Georgia

Members: Peter Buck ~ guitar/bass/mandolin
Mike Mills ~ bass/guitar/keyboard/b. vocals
Michael Stipe ~ vocals

Additional: Shamarr Allen, Leroy Jones ~ trumpet
Greg Hicks, Craig Klein, Mark Mullins ~ trombone
Kirk M. Joseph, Sr. ~ sousaphone
Jacknife Lee ~ guitar/keyboards

Scott McCaughey ~ guitar/keyboards/accordian/b. vocals
Bill Rieflin ~ drums/bouzouki/keyboards/guitar

Guests: Peaches, Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, Joel Gibb ~ b. vocals
Lenny Kaye ~ guitar solo

I used to be a fan of R.E.M. but lost interest after Automatic For The People song by song until today when I don't pay attention & couldn't tell you how many albums they've put out since Bill retired from the drumkit & I believe things firmly started to slip for the band. Collapse Into Now didn't bring this once fan back. It only made me wonder what happened to the R.E.M. I once thought was one of the coolest bands on the scene. While this isn't an album I'd give to someone to introduce them to the R.E.M. sound. Critics are calling it a return to form, that is the early underground form not the polished shiny happy Out Of Time period, but that's generally being nice as everyone is tired of having their once favorite band put out sub-par albums. We want R.E.M. to do something good so critics are grasping at anything. Critics are also saying it's a by the numbers return to the fold, so it might be a return but even the nicest critics aren't waving a banner in the air about the band's creativity or originality. R.E.M. has seen better days & better music, though they've done much much worse than Collapse Into Now & critics might be right in saying that R.E.M. are on the way back to becoming a dominating force in music. There's no reason why not. But, honestly, from the first moment of typical ragged guitar strumming clouding the melody behind thick chords to an upbeat song featuring Peaches on backing vocals this is a tough album to get into. If R.E.M. where young this would be clearly labeled a moody angry young man album of inner-demons light on everything but Morrissey-esque melancholly. But, R.E.M. aren't young men & even in the past Michael Stipe let out his inner-demons with more joy than what's on this album. Those accustomed to R.E.M. as an acoustic band with memorable melodies & Stipes voice quirkily riding over the top will feel completely alienated by Collapse Into Now. This is for those looking for a garage sound of thick guitars, while Stipe almost undersings & fades into the background, will find hidden pleasures here on repeated listenings. It has its moments & almost a hypnotic quality, particularly since the songs tend to blend into each other, a far different take then Automatic For The People which at times sounded more like a compilation. As for the lyrics ... a key to the attraction to R.E.M. In past albums Stipe shouted, sang, rapped & used his voice as artistically as he wrote his lyrics. At times he even dominated the song, though really R.E.M. should not be seen as a frontman with a band. Here there is a band, not just Stipe with some other guys, but the problem is he almost falls too much into the hypnotic mix. He's so quirky you don't want him to get lost like an old man mumbling to himself. Within the hypnotism there lies some strong sonic moments, subtle melodic touches & some delicate emotional moments, but it takes numerous listens to get there. In this day & age people aren't used to coming to an album over time, particularly since many know R.E.M. for the in your face Out Of Time ... an album even my 66 year old father likes!



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