Remembering the Good Old Days with New R.E.M.


I was so excited when I noticed a couple weeks back that R.E.M. was coming out with a new album.  I have been a big fan since college when my roommate introduced me to that group.  She was a huge U2 fan, as well, but I really took to R.E.M.  This was back in the late eighties when both bands were just gaining some footing with a larger audience, and R.E.M. still felt pretty "alternative" to the girl who spent high school listening to Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton.  I was so progressive and open-minded.  It was college, after all!

I went on to see R.E.M. in concert both at school and later (thank goodness) during one of my pregnancies.  (Incidentally, I also saw Clapton and James Taylor in concert during other pregnancies.  It seemed like a good opportunity to get the babies off on the right foot musically, though some of the extracurricular smells at the concerts might have offset the musical benefits)  Although R.E.M. has put out a handful of albums during the past decade, I somewhat fell away from them.  I was pleased to return to them with their new album, "Collapse Into Now".  I was rewarded with a very familiar--and somewhat comforting--sound.

It usually takes me a few listens to a new album to start to distill the individual songs, and that was particularly true on this album.  I'm still trying to figure out if that's a good or bad thing from an R.E.M. standpoint.  After a few listens, I liked the album well enough, but I also formed the opinion that some of the songs were sort of "generic R.E.M.", meaning that they sounded very familiar but weren't necessarily anything special.  That's not always a bad thing as not every album needs to clobber the listener with each song, but...some should stand out a bit or you might as well just listen to the old albums you already know you like and save your $11.99 (deluxe edition more, of course).

After my distillation process, I did start to like some songs more than others, but it's difficult for me to estimate which songs would be played on the radio or go on to become hits.  As usual, there are some goofy lyrics to some of the songs.  The one song I've heard on the radio a few times is "Mine Smell Like Honey".  Sometimes I am irritated if lyrics don't make sense to me because I pride myself on having at least average intelligence, but what exactly are they referring to that smells like honey?  Another song, "Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter", is clearly not meant to be taken seriously.  Sample lyrics: "I feel like an alligator climbing up the escalator, climbing up the escalator I feel strong."  I suppose an alligator would feel strong if he was able to make his way up an escalator, but it's an odd reference.  No more odd, I suppose, than pushing an elephant up the stairs as in 2000?'s "The Great Beyond".  Sounds like someone might have an inferiority complex about his strength? 

Songs that stood out for me were "Mine Smell Like Honey", "Discoverer" and "Walk It Back".  Of the other songs: they're fine, but I'm not sure how many I'll remember a few years from now like I do the songs from "Life's Rich Pageant" and "Reckoning".  There is a video for "It Happened Today" on YouTube, but they have disabled the ability to share it- ugh!  Anyway, if you're nostalgic for the old sound of R.E.M., you'll probably like this album.  Enjoy!


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