by Steve Scariano
Folk rock on the radio---always a good thing. Easily their best and first classic single since "Man On The Moon," as odd as it may be to still use the term "single" in 2008. So catchy, the song has been playing on an endless loop inside my head for the past three weeks. Not complaining at all though, cause it's thankfully knocked the "free credit report.com bay-bee" jingle out of my noggin. :) Thank you, boys!
Though Accelerate is by no means the greatest REM record ever, as Rolling Stone describes it, I do think a case can be made to indeed call it comeback. I'll say it again, the key to this record's strength is it's brevity---one and definitely two or more songs would have probably sunk it for sure. The boys should be commended highly for getting in and then getting the fuck out sans excess on this one.
Now the merits of an artist rewriting their best ideas from 20 years ago into new songs can be argued all day, but I think this works very, very well for the band on this album. The era they're rewriting here is that '84-'86 period that saw them transitioning out of their early jangle and into thicker and darker heavier riffs on the more rocking numbers, and into even darker and bleaker sonic corners on the ballads.
So yeah, there is the manipulation factor to consider on Accelerate, as the trainspotting of "hints" of older songs from that '84-'86 era will come easy for long time fans when listening to these new songs. But I think in this case it's ok, cause it really doesn't feel crass in any way. I think the boys are sincere in their desires to just keep it simple and rock on at this point in their career when it comes to making a new record. I've heard the album about a dozen times now and I love how it zips by and feels like an old school EP more than anything else. For now, I'm enjoying this record A LOT.
And given the band's and especially Mike Mills' heavy involvement in the Katrina recovery New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund organization, I was wondering how they were going to address Katrina on the new album. They did not disappoint. The song "Houston" is as subtly great a statement on the subject as Ian Hunter's "How's Your House?" was blatant. REM at their political best, including a reference to Jimmy Webb's classic song "Galveston" to boot!
Here's the video for that single: