Leaked: R.E.M. Gives Up, Makes Its Best Album in a Decade

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

R.E.M., Accelerate

Official release date: April 1

The verdict: If you've read any of the early reviews for R.E.M.'s fourteenth album, Accelerate, you're probably aware that this is supposed to be the band's return to form after a decade-long slump (which started with 1998's Up and lasted through 2004's Around the Sun). Is it, then? Well, after listening all weekend (the album leaked Saturday morning), we can unequivocally tell you that the answer is sort of. Sure, lead single "Supernatural Superserious" sounds like it could've fallen off the truck on the way to Reckoning or Out of Time — as do "Man-sized Wreath," "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," and at least three other tracks here — but is this really what we wanted?

Accelerate finds R.E.M. trying (obviously) to recapture the sound of their early albums. Since we love those albums, it's tough for us to complain. But, since we have a blog, we will anyway — isn't it also the sound of their giving up? When they made Monster in 1995, they were pilloried for changing their aesthetic to win back the younger fans they lost by not evolving during the grunge era. Now, though, they're being praised for changing their sound to win back the older fans they lost by evolving. So far, we're really enjoying Accelerate, but it's hard not to feel like records like this one come easy to R.E.M (they did make six of them in the eighties, after all). In the end, you can probably buy the hype — they have made their best album in ten years. Next time, though, it'd be nice if they could do it by trying harder instead of less.