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Monday, March 28, 2011

"Collapse Into Now", R.E.M.'s past, present and future

Collapse Into Now- R.E.M.

This is not a normal review, but a very special one. Its about heroes.

I can only explain the kind of passion for music I have, and especially for a certain style and attitude, as something I started learning from my father, followed by the apparition, in my life, of the then four-pieced band from Athens. They sounded completely different. Abstraction, oblique lyrics, joy, melancholy, jangle, pop, rock, strange instruments, and a unique frontman, the most intriguing personality in music in my opinion. Their music has been always mysterious and compelling for me. I do believe that anyone that really hears "Automatic for the People" knows what I'm talking about. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels the same way about them. When I think about the things that people usually points as their "identity factors" (flags, languages, history) my head says: R.E.M.

So no doubt I was waiting for a new album to come, and that in this era of immediate listenings and downloadings I waited patiently for the release date without listening anything in advance. It would have been a tragedy to kill the romanticism with the love or your life, don't you think? So, when "Collapse Into Now" has arrived, I have been rewarded. Again.

The initial blatant riff of "Discoverer" and the stormy, newadveruntesque (it's my blog and I'm writing about R.E.M., so I can invent words) "All the Best" makes 70% of "Accelerate" pale by comparison, but they cannot prepare you for what's going next. The trio of "Überlin", "Oh My Heart" and "It Happened Today" are not just R.E.M. summoning the best of their past to show you how good they can be. No, the sounds (brass sections, horns, mandolins), the sincerity in the voice of Stipe simply singing "oh my heart", the vocal harmonies, the infinite sadness, the joy ("hooray") are back, adopting familiar but at the same time new forms... Its the return of our heroes.

And "Collapse Into Now" keeps surprising you as the record goes on. With the Eels-like lullaby of "Every Day is Yours to Win", not quite "Everybody Hurts 2", but a fine example why Stipe is a unique kind of hero. He can comfort you (I'm a grown adult and I still believe him) and be irresistibly fun, like on the knockout tunes "Mine Smells Like Honey" (what a superb chorus),"Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" or the frustratingly short "That Someone is You".

But even heroes aren't flawless. "Walk it Back", with its crooning-style song proves how gentle and delicate the band can be, and how well our beloved Michael can sing, but it is balladry in the worst sense, and with a lyric that its opposite of what makes R.E.M. different. But there's no victory without defeat, no hero without purgatory. Rising from a fall to comeback stronger. That's how heroes are made.

And that's the case of R.E.M.. "Me and Marlon Brando..." restores the lyrical DNA of the band, cryptic, intriguing. Our heroes are revealing themselves, and they are fragile and disappointed, but they are brave enough to keep living and dreaming their future. That's "Blue", a mesmerizing closure with the help of one of the band heroes, Ms. Patti Smith, and future defined by the present, a present collapsed, ambiguous, and completely of their own. It's not an end, it's a beginning.   

Thank you Michael, Mike, Peter. Again

SCORE: 8/10

The link to my article (in Spanish) reviewing the record, from the website I collaborate with:

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