I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Collapse Into NowNo comments
What is this hairstyle?
So every member (except for Bill Berry, who is perfect) had made unfortunate hair decisions over the years. Stipe's haircut during the Green tour (a rat tail) should have been the worst, followed by Mills's soul patch. In the end Peter Buck however decided to take the price home for worst hairstyle simply by being the most persistent. My first thought was that he had somehow upset his hairdresser, or lost a bet, but he has kept the Prince Valiant hairstyle since 2011.
Collapse Into Now
They knew this would be the last album when making it. It is reflective both in tone and music. There are songs that remind me of Automatic for the People (Oh My Heart), Reveal (UBerlin and Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I), New Adventures in HiFi (Blue) and there is also still the "typical REM sound" they resurrected with Accelerate (Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter, That Someone is You, Mine Smell Like Honey). Mills's organ is back as is Buck's Mandolin and to my delight there is also an accordion on Oh My Heart (I loved the accordion on You Are The Everyting, back at Green and was always sad they did not use it more). The accordion is not played by Mills this time, but long time collaborator Scott McCaughey, who also got a writing credit on Oh My Heart. Next to their usual studio musicians, they also collaborated with a lot of outside artists, a bucket list of people they like to work with. There is Eddie Vedder and Joel Gibb belting out background vocals on It Happened Today as if their life depended on it. They pay homage to their punk influences by including Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye and Peaches, especially on Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter.
They use the same producer as on Accelerate, Jacknife Lee, but the sound is much broader on this album. You can hear their whole spectrum, the folk influenced mid tempo songs, the punk influence, the jangly rock. I am more forgiving to this album looking backwards, rather than forwards, considering it is their last. A full stop to an almost 30 year long career. But it also makes me sad, the album has a real "we are done, thank you for the good times" vibe . Good for them, being able to retire in dignity, before the world decides for them that their time is over. (I haven't actually spent much time checking out what they did after REM; but my guess is none of them ended up at Dancing with the Stars.)
It is a solid album, but I will never enjoy as much listening to it as it makes me sad. I think it was a good decision for them to break up when they did, everything as to end sometimes. But even a good end is an end and I am not ready to let go yet. So after the post Bill Berry playlist in the next post, I will return back to the beginning and look at Chronic Town. I'll also spend some time on Wikipedia and see what they have been up to the past 10 years.