With its latest release, R.E.M. has perfected a two-part strategy for earning glowing reviews. Step A: Issue tepid to dreadful albums for at least a decade. Step B: Put out a decent CD and watch it be hailed as a Work of Genius!
That's pretty much the story with Accelerate. Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills wisely hired a hot young producer, Jacknife Lee, who gives the group a sonic vitality it's lacked for ages. Thanks to him, "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" and "Supernatural Superserious" actually rock in a tuneful way. Still, the collection is fairly slight — less than 35 minutes — and the tracks recall the group's celebrated early work instead of rivaling it. In the end, Accelerate qualitatively compares to 1994's Monster, a return-to-rock disc that most listeners originally regarded as just north of okay.
Had it been preceded by ten years of suckage, though, it would've seemed like a masterpiece.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.