R. E. M. effectively goes back to basics

Andy Lesser

Although technology is quickly infusing itself into today’s music, none of the recently created digital effects, electronic drum beats, or synthesized noises have affected R.E.M in the 28 years of the band’s existence.

R.E.M’s new album, Accelerate, is no exception; Michael Stipe and the rest of the band have simply turned up their amps and punched out another 35 minutes of fast alternative rock anthems.

Accelerate features 11 tracks, the average song lasting a mere three minutes, and although the album is short, the object of R.E.M’s creation is clearly to hammer melodies and lyrical phrases into your memory in tiny bursts –– a tactic they’ve always accomplished quite effectively (and at times annoyingly).

Of course, everyone has had the songs “Everybody Hurts” and “It’s The End of The World As We Know It” stuck in their heads at one point, not because of the exceptional guitar parts or melodies, but because of the band’s simple, easy-to-understand songwriting. R.E.M has certainly stuck to their principles in this regard; every song on the new album, as in previous albums, has the generic-storied verse followed by the preachy chorus that will stick with the listener whether or not he or she wants it to.

As everyone who as been at least somewhat acquainted with R.E.M. knows, lyrics are everything to this band. And even though it’s been 28 years since the band formed, the live-in-the-moment messages contained in singer/songwriter Michael Stipe’s lyrics have not changed.

From “Man-Sized Wreath,” when Stipe cries, “kick it out on the dance floor like you just don’t care,” to “Houston,” when Stipe says, “It’s a new day….and I was taught to hold my head high,” to the final, two-minute track where Stipe says repeatedly, “I’m Gonna DJ at the end of the world,” the lyrics are as consistent in their carefree messages as they are in their unoriginality and cheesiness.

However, the lyrics also give, and have always given, R.E.M a certain air of not being even slightly concerned with possible criticism in regards to their style and sound. Accelerate is not an album that will be appreciated for eloquent words or artistic direction, but it will, in fact, be appreciated for precisely the opposite reasons –– it’s fast, catchy, carefree, and everything else that R.E.M stands for.

Andy Lesser, staff writer