Published on March 9th, 2011 | by Aaron0
First Impressions: R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
I am an R.E.M. fan. I’m not an appreciator of their music like most folk, I’m one of those card carrying fanatics. I’ve seen them live on multiple occasions shelling out a lot of money. I own t-shirts, buttons, I have even sewn an R.E.M. patch into a denim jacket (the patch was bright pink and orange by the way, just to add to my coolness).
I can even say I have touched the man himself, Michael Stipe. A few years ago while touring Around The Sun, they played at Ardgillan Castle and I managed to get a place front-and-centre at the stage. He came out while singing and grabbed my hand as he levered himself into the crowd. He held onto me for stability for the end of the song and if I could tell you I didn’t squeal like a girl the whole time, I would.
Saying that though, I’ve always considered myself a realist when it came to their music. I feel like I can cut through the crap and spot a bad song for a bad song. Around The Sun, despite inspiring the “never wash this hand again” moment, is their worst album in my opinion. And while I’ll champion some of their best songs I also will openly criticize others for being rubbish. I still love them, thats part of being a fan, but I’ll be honest about it.
So that being said, I’ve successfully managed to completely avoid their new album Collapse Into Now which went on sale last week. I have heard none of the songs. I did so in both an accidental way and an “I’ll wait until it’s released” sort of way too. A bit like how some people won’t watch a trailer so that it doesn’t ruin the film for them.
Well, today I finally got my hands on the thing and decided to review the album in live time. I’ll listen to it once and review it while I’m listening. So my review will be short (it’s hard to review the last song while the current one is playing) but hopefully my instant reaction to a song will bear some valid information.
I hope you enjoy this experiment, now lets press play…
This is not instantly recognizable as an R.E.M. track. It almost feels like a U2 song with Stipe singing in place of Bono. I know that most people may see that as a slur but I am very partial to the anthemic rock of my countrymen so this is a nice surprise. It’s louder and bigger than I’ve heard R.E.M. in a long time.
2) All The Best
This feels quite current. There is an impression that the band are channeling Monster on this record so far and while this has all of the brash confidence of that period the production here really is of the moment. I don’t know what they’re doing in their personal lives but they seem to have knocked off 20 years of age in their music. This is not the music of men in their early 50s.
This is more of what we’re used to. Stipe being whimsical but personal at the same time. Some acoustic guitars but a brisk pace. If this was written around the time of UP it would have been stripped down but this has a lot going on without feeling cluttered. Would definitely fit in with the tracks from that album though.
4) Oh My Heart
Stipe getting emotional again but when he talks about his country he does so with passion and despite previous protest songs going wrong this makes a statement of reconciliation rather than anger. Hopefully I’m right in thinking this is about America. I’m probably wrong though which I often am about song meanings.
5) It Happened Today
I hate to say the word “filler” but I guess this one just didn’t make an impression on me. I started to multi-task and concentrate on other things. Sorry.
6) Every Day Is Yours To Win
Sweet melody in this lullaby-esque song. This would be nice live as an end of show sleepy send off.
7) Mine Smell Like Honey
This feels a bit like a single. It’s probably the catchiest of the numbers provided so far. That’s something I’m noticing right now, so far none of them seem to be “stuck in your head an hour later” sort of tunes. But this one has the potential for that. I expect a video for this (hoepfully, bands need to make more videos)
EDIT: Well, after listening to the album, I had a look, and what do you know, there is one!
8) Walk It Back
Another “…meh” song for me. It plodded along nicely but nothing really appealed to me.
Oh yeah, here we go. This is what I’m looking for. Fun. Some nice backing vocals from Peaches too. Bet you didn’t expect to hear that on an R.E.M. record did you? But yeah, Peaches is a great addition here. Just the right amount of attitude. Another stand-out track along with “Mine Smell Like Honey”.
10) That Someone Is You
Less than two minutes long. Probably a good thing.
11) Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I
I had high hopes for this song purely because I thought the title was great. I’m left a little cold. It’s a sweet song but it’s forgettable.
This sounds REALLY familiar. It’s uncannily like another R.E.M. song but I’m struggling to place which one. It’s eerie though because I’m getting major flashbacks. Patti Smith sounds great. It’s a shame her contribution is ruined a little by Stipe reciting beat poetry in the background. And suddenly… everything comes alive about 4 minutes into the song and we make a big circle back to the beginning as they “Discover” it up all over again.
Overall, I’m not really thrilled. There are about 4 or 5 songs I would call good and the rest just didn’t really catch my ear. Like with a lot of recent R.E.M albums the love may come with repeat plays but for a first go round I’m not left excited. It’s a solid album and close to Accelerate (their previous album) in quality but unfortunately right now it falls a little short for me.
What do you think? Am I being harsh? Will appreciation come with time? Was this review idea all madness to begin with? Comment and let us know.