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Album Review: Collapse Into Now by REM

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I’ve been a fan of REM for as long as I can remember – at the tender age of 11, my classroom tutor played me “Stand” and the rest they say, is history. I have to be honest in saying their recent album releases have left me feeling somewhat uninspired, so I was curious to investigate whether their latest album would re-ignite my passion for the band.

…the album rises to provide some of the best songs I’ve heard from REM in a very long time…

“Collapse Into Now” came to my attention whilst viewing video updates via the bands YouTube channel. It has to be said, the online videos did a good job in motivating my purchase and even before pressing the play button I was excited to hear the album.

The opening two tracks don’t disappoint. “Discoverer” features trademark jangly guitars, albeit on the raunchy side (a good thing) and potent singing from Michael Stipe. The tracks are short, sweet, packed with energy that are very reminiscent of the Document/Green era.

The acoustic side of REM flows through the song “ÜBerlin”. The guitar playing and vocal melody could be seen as an upbeat “Drive” (from Automatic for the People). “Oh My Heart” continues with the acoustic feel and “It Happened Today” is drenched with a classic REM vibe; the mandolin takes you straight back to “Out of Time” and guest vocals from Eddie Vedder add subtly to the mix.

With the acoustic “middle” of the album chilling things out nicely, the direction turns upbeat when “Mine Smell Like Honey” kicks in. This song takes me back to pre-Document days, featuring simple harmonies and chord structures, sprinkled with a heavy layer of Peter Buck’s guitar playing.

The album then proceeds to get even better, with the songs “Walk it Back” and “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” really grabbing the listener by the scruff of the neck (the latter song featuring Peaches on backing vocals).

The final third of the album continued to tip the hat to the REM back catalogue. Although most of the songs could have featured on Document/Green/Out of Time, they do sound modern and fresh.

Summary

The album, in my opinion starts very promising, tapers off somewhat towards the middle and rises to provide some of the best songs I’ve heard from REM in a very long time.

The final track “Blue” is quite simply brilliant, blending all the aspects of REM that’ve always appealed to me; edge and atmosphere. For me, this is the stand out track of the album, and it sounds almost like an extension, or “part II” to the song “Country Feedback” that featured on the “Out of Time” album.

The words I would use to summarise this album are “classic REM” – it’s great to hear music that justifies why REM is such an important and influential band. Top marks should also go to the recording team for capturing such a great guitar sound from Peter Buck.

This is an absolute must for fans of the “Document”, “Green” and “Out of Time” era – great songs, yet embracing a fresh feel and a slightly more refined edge. The album left me feeling eager to discover what else the band has in store for the future.

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About the author:

Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.

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