R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

Album cover
R.E.M.
Collapse Into Now
R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now Review rating:
3.5
User rating:
Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

For the past two decades, the roller coaster ride that is R.E.M.’s career could not have been more apparent. After six heralded records in the 1980s and the modern alternative classic Automatic for the People, R.E.M. found themselves in a rut of inconsistency. Much of this was directly related to the fact that the band had been going through somewhat of a transitioning period. R.E.M. had undergone a transformation from a lo-fi indie outfit to almost an adult contemporary sound in the 90s; accumulating more exposure, but also sacrificing quality in the process. As mixed as the acclaim in the 90s had been for R.E.M., the 2000s would prove to be the band’s most problematical decade, as albums Reveal and Around the Sun hinted at the group’s apocalypse. Luckily, follow-up Accelerate begged to differ, making it anyone’s guess where R.E.M.’s next record would end up.

If anything can be said about R.E.M.’s career as a whole, the inference can be made that the band has crafted some very safe records. Their legacy after all, was built on the capacity to be affecting and compelling in simplistic fashion; whether the release was touted for brilliant melodies or lucrative songwriting. While not exactly a return to form record, Accelerate recalled the band’s earlier material at its most undeniable points, by utilizing those aforementioned qualities. In several ways, Accelerate was the release R.E.M. needed to construct in order to prove that longevity had not taken its toll on the band. Well, at least not entirely.

R.E.M.’s 2011 installment Collapse into Now is your typical post-Automatic for the People record. Featuring twelve tracks scattered over forty-plus minutes, Collapse into Now is a simplistic piece of alternative rock, which is characterized by Peter Buck’s jangly guitars and Michael Stipe’s distinctive croon. From the get-go, “Discoverer” has the listener hooked, as Stipe’s vocals soar over blistering guitar leads and slick bass lines; the results is an absolutely electrifying opener. In fact, both “Discoverer” and “All the Best” recall R.E.M.’s Monster days at the record’s façade, and set the stage for what appears to be buoyant release. Collapse into Now however, introduces its fair share of lower-key tracks, namely “Oh My Heart” and “Walk it Back.” Despite clichéd lyrics, the former is a wonderfully crafted ballad, which employs everything from a brass section to perfectly placed harmonies. The role of the ultimate underscore however, is played by fifth track “It Happened Today.” A vocal lover’s dream, “It Happened Today,” establishes an exceptional melody and evolves the piece around it; culminating in an outro full of wordless harmonies and an appearance from Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

Unfortunately, Collapse into Now is unable to come close to the magnitude of “It Happened Today” and suffers from a number of tracks that simply don’t have a purpose or an intriguing characteristic. With Buck’s murky leads, “Every Day is Yours To Win” showcases the tell-tale signs of a momentum builder, but never climaxes and makes for a very forgettable track. “Überlin” disrupts the release’s bracing commencement as a slow-burner that provokes neither amusement nor poignancy. While tracks such as these exist, several present some sort of a purpose despite unambiguous flaws. “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter” comes off as absolute nonsense (as you could’ve guessed from the title), but has a ridiculous enjoyment factor about it that adds some flavor to a somewhat bland backside of the record.

Here in 2011, it shouldn’t be expected that R.E.M. launch a glorious comeback akin to the days of Automatic for the People or Reckoning. What Collapse into Now represents however, is a band that understands its role in the modern music scene and has a damn good time in the process. With Accelerate under their belt three years earlier, Collapse into Now signifies R.E.M.’s second consecutive sound record, and justifies the band’s continued subsistence this many years later.

1. Discoverer
2. All the Best
3. Überlin
4. Oh My Heart
5. It Happened Today
6. Every Day is Yours to Win
7. Mine Smell Like Honey
8. Walk it Back
9. Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter
10. That Someone is You
11. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I
12. Blue

R.E.M. is an alternative rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, United States in 1980. The band originally consisted of Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar, mandolin), Mike Mills (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Bill Berry (drums). Berry retired from the band in October 1997 after having suffered a brain aneurysm on the '95 Monster tour. He is now a farmer.

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