US - Georgia - Full Moon 178 - 03/19/11
Collapse Into Now
It's been some years since I followed every step R.E.M. took, but
I've briefly heard their albums from the last 10 years. Collapse into
Now is the 15th studio
album by the Athens, GA alternative rock, veterans, and even though they
might not be that alternative anymore, they still don't fit in the
mainstream. This even though
they've sold huge amounts of records and play stadiums. Buck, Mills and
Stipe have been travelling around to do this album, which was recorded
in Berlin (Germany), plus
in Nashville and New Orleans stateside. And, of course a lot of guest
musicians dropped by: long-time sidekick Scott McCaughey (The Young
Fresh Fellows and The Minus 5
- where he plays with Peter Buck. He's also bass man for Robyn
Hitchcock's touring band, The Venus 3, also with Buck in it).
McCaughey's even got writing credits on one
track here. Patti Smith returns for a vocal job (as she did on "E-Bow
the Letter" on New Adventures in Hi-Fi back in 1994). Eddie
Vedder steps to the mic for one
song. Lenny Kaye (of Patti Smith Group) plays guitar on two tracks.
Canadian (Berlin based) electronic artist Peaches adds vocals to one
track, and Joel Gibb (of The
Hidden Cameras) to another.
R.E.M. sort of follow their fixed formula, with a mixture of some
slow and quiet ballads, some mid-tempo tunes, topped with a few up-tempo
rock songs. This makes
Collapse Into Now sort of a blend of Automatic for the
People (1992) and Accelerate (2008). Quite some good and
catchy songs, plus some tougher ones,
with more speed and punch (which I like). That said I think R.E.M.
recycle themselves quite a lot. many of the songs are similar to songs
from the R.E.M.'s catalogue or
songbook. F.i. is "Discoverer" a 'new' "Finest Worksong", and
"Überlin" a 'new' "Drive", etc. Myself I prefer their faster songs,
like "All The Best" and "Alligator
Aviator Autopilot Antimatter" (which is the one featuring Peaches and
Lenny Kaye), and "That Someone Is You", simply because they're energetic
and punchy, holding steam
as well as being catchy. "Blue", with Patti Smith, is just what I
expected a song by R.E.M. with Patti Smith to be like, quite a serious
song, slow, with spoken word parts.
It's the key track of the album, of course, and '...collapse into
one...' is part of the lyrics. But, what's cool with it is the return to
the first track, "Discoverer",
which is blended into the song at the end. All of a sudden the last song
is the first song, chorus and all, like the album's on eternal repeat.
When listening to Collapse Into Now I come to think of: do we
really need another album by R.E.M.? Should bands stop making albums
after a certain number of
records, or a number of years in activity? Should 10-12 albums be the
maximum limit? And could 20 years be the limit before retirement? All
this with the exception of
Neil Young and Tom Waits, of course... Well, Collapse Into Now
isn't bad, and R.E.M. could probably keep on putting out albums like
this, like ever, forever. Making
most people happy.
Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen