R.E.M. Stuck At A Level of ‘Acceptance’

In 2003, R.E.M. released “In Time: “The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003.” Then, in 2006, another “Best Of” CD was released based on their pre-major label work. So, how strange must it be for a close-to 30-year-old band who has released two greatest hits albums to release a new CD? It is like each album after has to challenge the title “Best Of.” It dares a band to show that the best is not behind them, and that it is still relevant to today’s scene.
Unfortunately for R.E.M., the year after releasing its major label “Best Of” CD found them releasing “Around The Sun,” which was a criticized and poorly received album. So, have one of the pioneers of alternative rock burned itself once again?
The band’s 14th studio album sees an R.E.M. that is decidedly more engaged and fresh than the R.E.M. that released “Around The Sun.” The album opens with the fast-paced “Living Well Is The Best Revenge” setting the brisk tone for the rest of the CD. The title of the album alone seems to suggest its breezy tempo as “Acceleration” clocks in just under the 35 minute mark.
The album mostly prods along with songs that are empirically good, but seem to lack that extra something to make them stand out. The only track on the album that needs to be unchecked from your iTunes playlist is “I’m Gonna DJ.” It stands out for all the wrong reasons and sounds absurd enough to almost hint at being ironic with its half-rapping vocals and “woohoo” harmonies.
The album’s quick pace could be the culprit for each track’s lack of instant, stand-out status. With so many tracks coming in at under the three-minute mark, there isn’t enough time to absorb the music before the next song begins to play. Distinguished tracks are the slick pop-single “Supernatural Superserious,” the darker title track “Accelerate,” the folk-influenced “Until the Day Is Done,” and the jangly, mellow “Mr. Richards.”
With most of the tracks coming off as largely forgettable (with a last track that is regrettably unforgettable for all the wrong reasons), this album definitely doesn’t stand its past work. Long-time fans will have to stick to “In Time” to get their R.E.M. fix. “Accelerate” is surely a step in the right direction, coming off of the failure of its last album, but it certainly isn’t much of a leap forward.