R.E.M.’s fire burned bright for many years, and found itself starting to flicker and die down during the mid 90’s. Their songwriting and sonic palettes suffered, and the albums that followed seemed more like exercises in meandering walks in the woods, instead of sounds from a band that influenced an era of musicians and songwriters that followed.
In 2008, the band released their 14th studio album “Accelerate.” R.E.M. sounded rejuvenated, like they had found their way out of the woods. Though maybe squinting from the glare, they were ready to stand in the light again. While that album showed that the band, who will be celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, could still throw sparks even if they were still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Their new release “Collapse into Now” finds the band unafraid of using a little gasoline again to get flames to reach higher.
Lead off single “Mine Smells like Honey”, the semi garage-rock rave up “That Someone Is You” and tongue twister “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter” are blasts of jangle-and-roar meeting sing along choruses that would not sound out of place from their golden-era albums such as “Document.”
Others, like accordion and mandolin fortified psych-country weeper “Oh, My Heart” and the lilting “Every Day Is Yours To Win”, hearken back to the days when the band would balance their college rock arena-storming anthems with quieter songs that could be introspective and pretty, but not boring.
To say “Collapse into Now” rivals some of their best material would be a bit of a stretch. They’re a bit long-in-the-tooth and have took many way wide sidesteps the past 15 years or so for that. But hearing them remember what made them one of the most important bands of the last 30 years, and hearing them act on it again, shows they still have some fire in their belly, and are not yet to be written off as a classic rock band merely going through the motions.