(Warner Brothers)


With its reputation in doubt, R.E.M. decided to “crank up the amps,” said Hugo Lindgren in New York. R.E.M.’s 14th studio album, Accelerate, finds the band putting the pedal to the metal in the “name of self-preservation.” After drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997, R.E.M. forced its fans to endure a decade marked by three “fussed over, downbeat” albums. Discs such as Around the Sun weren’t awful. But they were full of “uninviting, oblique songs that depended on a level of intense curiosity” most fans just couldn’t muster. To shake their audience—and themselves—out of such lassitude, the three remaining members of R.E.M. have turned out their “best, and certainly their loudest,” record in years. Accelerate “corrals 35 minutes of the fastest” tracks the band’s produced in decades, said Josh Modell in Spin. Though R.E.M. has always been a bit too cerebral to really rock out, the group approaches this album with a “joyous sense of purpose” and a bracing, “‘let’s just do this’ attitude.” The snarling guitars of “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” start the album with a jolt, said Joshua Klein in Pitchforkmedia.com. Producer Jacknife Lee speeds up the songs and sharpens the sound. Unfortunately, “velocity is not the same thing as vitality, and brevity is not the same thing as urgency.” Though a solid effort to “recapture the spirit of R.E.M.’s prime,” Accelerate merely echoes their
finest work.