I’m getting pretty excited about R.E.M.’s upcoming album Collapse Into Now. 2008’s Accelerate was a return to form, after about 10 years of three abysmal albums (1998’s Up, 2001’s Reveal, and 2004’s virtually unlistenable Around The Sun). While I loved Accelerate when it came out, its break-neck speed which was refreshing at the time has proved to be its achilles heel. R.E.M. is at their best when their songs are moody and reflective even in their rockers. Accelerate in its urgency left little room for the listener to enter into the songs.
But the songs off of Collapse Into Now that have been leaked or officially find R.E.M. entering a territory both familiar and new. “It Happened Today” sounds like something off of Out Of Time – except better than almost all of the songs combined with the exception of “Losing My Religion”. Peter Buck’s ringing guitar chords sing through while Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, and guest vocalist Eddie Vedder spend almost two minutes in a wordless harmonizing chant that never ceases to be boring. “Mine Smell Like Honey” sounds like an Accelerate out-take, with its blasting guitars. Yet it’s more accessible in its melody, and a reminder than the interchange between Mike Mills and Michael Stipe is a force to be reckoned with. The psychedelic “Discoverer” might be the weakest of the three tracks I’ve heard, but it’s still very good. Stipe’s chant of “Discoverer!” in the chorus might of course be a live-highlight.
If these three tracks are any indication, Collapse Into Now might be a latter-day R.E.M. classic, as opposed to just a very good R.E.M. album like Accelerate.
“It Happened Today”