April 10, 2008

Test Spin: R.E.M.

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Accelerate’s 11 songs and 35-minutes indict pundits, Presidents, hurricanes and the apocalypse; frontman Michael Stipe is pissed; he claims victory with his first breath. “The future’s ours, and you don’t even rate a footnote,” he snarls on the surging opener “Living Well’s the Best Revenge.” And he never lets up.
Likewise, there is a swaggering confidence in the band’s playing. Peter Buck’s spiraling guitar drips with fuzz-pedal distortion as the rhythm section (Mike Mills and Bill Rieflin) stomps behind him. A pair of pretty waltzes eases the pace momentarily (“Houston,” “Until the Day is Done”) and some songs are defiantly eccentric (“Mr. Richards,” “I’m Gonna DJ”), while still others show off big, classic R.E.M. choruses (“Hollow Man,” “Man-Sized Wreath”).
Accelerate sacrifices melodic nuance for redlined guitars too often, but its energy is refreshing, its songs strong. Few bands of R.E.M.’s stature could make an album this good this far into such a long career.