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R.E.M. puts the pedal
to the metal

R.E.M. - Accelerate
(Warner Bros. Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 17, 2008

Review by Tony Bonyata

On R.E.M.'s fourteenth full-length effort aptly titled Accelerate, the Athens, GA-based trio seem determined to reclaim their rightful place in the lexicon of rock & roll with a record that eschews their more recent forays into experiential sounds and styles in favor of a return to the music that made them the darlings of the underground a quarter-century ago, although, somewhat surprisingly, now with a bit more muscle and attitude.

Ever since drummer Bill Berry left the band back in '97 R.E.M. has had a rather rough time convincing the young hipsters (a grassroots audience that grew around the band in the early '80s with their success and support from college radio) that their music should still matter as much as it once did. As front man Michael Stipe even admitted around the time of Berry's departure, "I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog. It just has to learn to run differently."

And while the "three-legged' R.E.M. did, in fact, run differently (at times with a noticeable limp, as on their lethargic 2004 release Around The Sun) on Accelerate Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills sound as if they've tapped into the chemistry - if not also a bit of the magic - of their youth.

Taking its title from a well-known quote from 17th century English poet and priest George Herbert the album opens with the snarling hard-rocker "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" before segueing into the equally spirited "Man-Sized Wreath," a song brimming with hooks and memorable guitar riffs.

The band does pull in the reigns a bit on numbers such as the gentle "Hollow Man," but even on this tune the chorus swells into something much larger, and showcases they haven't lost their ability to still craft an infectious song.

With other high-energy rockers such as the punk-infused mayhem of "I'm Gonna DJ" and "Horse To Water," as well as the swaggering groove of "Mr. Richards," R.E.M. have not only successfully reclaimed their place in the history of rock & roll with this return-to-form album, but have done so sounding both reinvigorated and decades younger.

Watch R.E.M. - "Accelerate" video

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