If you haven’t heard, it’s been a while since the state of Georgia had a decent rainstorm and it’s been a while since we’ve had a decent album from R.E.M. While the weather in the Peach State is still in question, the early consensus is that the new R.E.M. album is a return to those fair-weather days of old and one that’s sure to please longtime fans.
Before we all start deeming Accelerate “the best R.E.M. album since…” let’s take a deep breath and allow all of that cynicism, resentment, and well-deserved ambivalence towards the band take hold and provide us with a much needed reality check.
The fact is, R.E.M. needed to make this album, so one has to consider the motivation behind it. It’s healthy to wonder if this album is a calculated attempt at salvaging a recording contract with Warners instead of winning back those fans who’ve given two shits about R.E.M. for some time.
Critics aren’t really any different than fans — that’s why we became critics, because of our passion for music — and I have been an R.E.M. fan since 1981. I very much want any new recording from the band to match the brilliance of the music it released from ’81 through “Automatic for the People” in 1992. Very little of it has, though at first it has often seemed to.
As a critic, you receive an album advance a week or two before its release (at best; other times, you get it the day before). You listen as many times as possible, and then you present your emotional reaction in the intellectual form of a written review. (Some people would say there’s very little intellect involved with some critics, but you know what I mean, I hope.)
After that, like any other fan, you live with that album for two weeks, two months, two years… and sometimes your opinion changes. Sometimes, you realize, “This just isn’t holding up.”
Which albums have you been swept up by only to realize a little later that they aren’t that great? How about the other way around? Which albums took a while to sink in?
Okay, people should be embarrassed that the Dave Clark Five were even finalists. Talk about also-rans. Jesus, if they’re going to induct every band that tried hard to sound exactly like the Beatles, the Hall of Fame is going to be even more meaningless than it is now. The Dave Clark Five? Come on!
And keep out the Stooges? Lame. Then again, look at all the inductees. Looks like they started scraping the bottom of the barrel around 2000…