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With the release of Accelerate in 2008, the general consensus was that REM had managed to arrest a worrying decline. The band’s two previous 21st century albums, while racking up initially healthy sales, had met with an underwhelming reception from both critics and fans, and Accelerate seemed to provide a long overdue adrenalin shot, full of the pace and urgency of their earliest records.
Collapse Into Now, their 15th studio offering (released 7 March 2011), finds Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills once again delving into their back pages and bygone triumphs; a distillation of everything that made REM one of the most vital groups on the planet in the first place.
“There are some really pretty acoustic things, some total noisy rock, and some kind of poppy stuff,” Buck told Pitchfork last year, while Mills suggested to Rolling Stone that “it makes sense as a whole, the same way that Automatic For The People did.”
It’s an interesting reference, the bass player perhaps trying to plant a seed in fans’ minds that the new record is worthy of comparison with the 1992 album that remains their most universally adored. But while Collapse Into Now undeniably contains motifs familiar to Automatic..., there are just as many allusions to the moods and atmospheres of, say, Document, Out Of Time or Monster.
The new album took shape over sessions in Berlin, Nashville, and New Orleans throughout most of 2010, interspersed with lengthy breaks for writing and rewriting. Accelerate producer Jacknife Lee is behind the desk again, and the band also reached out for little help from some famous friends.