Imagine, if you will, a place. A bar perhaps, that you used to go to regularly. The smells, the way your shoes stick a bit to the ground, the feel of the mahogany under your hands as you step up to the same place to order a drink that you did countless times in your youth. It all comes back to you in a rush; that feel of nostalgia. Welcome to Collapse Into Now.
In its 15th studio release, REM has not just re-captured some of its early mojo, it has re-cycled it in a way that smells and feels fresh to the listener. For a band that creatively lost their way when drummer Bill Berry left in 1997. With this album, they have found a way to go back in time to the Document – Out of Time era. Stipe, Mills and Buck do not re-invent the wheel here, but do offer us something that only they could produce, and for that many fans are sure to be grateful.
Produced by Jacknife Lee (U2, The Hives, Weezer), Collapse Into Now does not settle on a specific genre. There are some slow beautiful songs, such as “Überlin,” and “Walk It Back.” They do pick up the pace and let the guitars fly on a few tracks, such as “Discoverer” with Patti Smith, “It Happened Today” with Eddie Vedder and the quintessential REM song “Mine Smell Like Honey.”
When one sits to listen to the album as a whole, it’s hard to be more impressed by the first few tracks on this album. “Discoverer” opens a blazing path with Buck’s choppy chords and Stipe sounding younger than he has in years. “All the Best” follows and speaks to the bands of today: “I’ll do it one more time, Let’s show the kids how to do it fine.”
“Überlin” screams of the big hit “Drive” off of Automatic For The People and “Oh My Heart” incorporates several New Orleans area horn players as a tribute to area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. “It Happened Today” and “Mine Smell Like Honey” set up the middle album with songs you can hit the road with and sing with the top down.
“Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” and “Blue” close out the album, with Stipe working with his idol in Patti Smith on the last track. Neither song would be a radio hit, but still show that Stipe and the boys still have the ability to write a good song. This album is not without misses. “Every Day Is Yours To Win” falls flat and “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” with guest Peaches on vocals should only see the light of day as a B-side release.
For new listeners of REM, I would send them to the first half of their career. There is way too much good music for this album to compete with. However, for the old fans that have held on for over a decade to hear something relevant, this will satisfy that need. Memories of the past will come to the surface and make them remember why they became a fan of Stipe, Buck and Mills in the first place.
Written by Victor Alfieri