Tuesday, 8 March 2011

R.E.M. Collapse Into Now album preview

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I fell in love with R.E.M. It is one of those moments that I can genuinely look back on and thank someone else for introducing me to a whole new world of music. Pearl Jam, R.E.M and The Tragically Hip. The big three. I was in a bar in a bowling alley in Bournemouth and a friend found Out Of Time on the jukebox. He didn’t put on Losing My Religion. He didn’t choose Shiny Happy People. He had one song. He played Country Feedback. My world changed. Forever.

A week later I spent ten pounds on the album (tape, Our Price Music, circa 1991). It was a fortune for me at the time as a struggling grant-less student but I listened to it until it fell to pieces. I still have it. A year later and a different friend loaned me a copy of Automatic For The People. He recorded it from the original CD but for some reason it was on random shuffle. By the end of the year I knew the opening bars of the next songs before the current ones had finished – all in the wrong order. For years later, now owning the album (vinyl of course), when Everybody Hurts came to a close I would already be on to Find The River. I still can’t get through Man On The Moon without starting on Drive. You get the idea.

From these humble beginnings I went back to rediscover the band, first to Green (still one of my favourite albums of all time – it captures a great band on the verge of even more greatness), then to the charming Life’s Rich Pageant. Then I picked up a second hand copy of Murmur, Fables Of The Reconstruction and then Reckoning. With the band’s chronology gaining a new shape all of its own, I completed the first eight records with Document. It is important to note that in 1991, with R.E.M. in their commercial prime, I sidestepped their ‘best of’ collection in favour of the earlier Eponymous and b-sides release Dead Letter Office. I even found a copy of Chronic Town, the band’s first EP, which I still adore.

So now in 2011, 20 years on and now a three-piece (albeit with plenty of help from Scott McCaughey, Bill Rieflin and Jacknife Lee, amongst others including Eddie Vedder, Peaches and Patti Smith), R.E.M. release their fifteenth studio album Collapse Into Now. Since the brilliant New Adventures In Hi-Fi, which followed up the disastrous Monster so well, musically R.E.M. had lost their way. Great songs have been few and far between in the last decade with only glimpses of consistency appearing with previous album Accelerate that is, to pardon the pun, rushed. On first listen Collapse Into Now is mesmerising, packed with energy and enthusiasm and sounds very much like a band now enjoying making music again.

1 comment:

Mr Magoo said...

From the man who introduced me to REM by lending me (briefly before a lecture) that tape copy of Out of Time. Dude, we're getting old!