R.E.M. is one of the most important rock bands of the last three decades. Their output during the ’80s and early- to mid- ’90s was fantastic, from 1982’s Chronic Town EP and the band’s years on I.R.S. Records through their signing with Warner Bros. and records like 1992’s Automatic for the People and 1996’s still-underrated New Adventures in Hi-Fi. For years, R.E.M. dominated college radio. Their work continues to influence the sound of rock, especially that of the alterative and indie persuasions.

Brian Merlos
Is there a band any more depressingly old than R.E.M.? (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

New Adventures was the final appearance of Bill Berry, R.E.M.’s original drummer, and unfortunately, it’s also safe to say that in spite of their continuing superstardom, the crippled line-up has failed to release a decent album since. The general consensus is that R.E.M. simply became a live band, releasing lackluster albums of new material and playing epic concerts filled with the old.

Pre-release buzz has already established that Accelerate is meant to be a return to form, a release from a revitalized line-up that should renew any former fan’s interest. Producer Jacknife Lee of U2, Green Day and Snow Patrol fame was enlisted to help bring the band around.

Jacknife’s influence is immediately apparent. The album’s sound has a certain pop-rock sheen, as on “Supernatural Superserious,” Accelerate’s first single. Sometimes the calculated crunch is a little too much, and the song can sound less than sincere. The cheesy final note

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