Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
This collection of songs is a welcome throwback to the politically engaged and musically brash REM of the ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’/‘Document’ era of ’86/’87. This is apparent on searing opener ‘Living Well Is The Best Revenge’, with Peter Buck’s guitar ringing through clear as day after an unexplained spell on the sidelines and recalling 1987 ‘list’ classic ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’. It’s utterly exhilarating, and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The righteous stomp of ‘Man-Sized Wreath’ rails against the Bush administration’s attitude towards the civil rights movement. Later, during folky ‘Houston’, Stipe attacks the US government’s initial lack of response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. They might be having fun, but they haven’t forgotten what’s important. As a result of all this, ‘Accelerate’ is by some considerable distance REM’s best and most cohesive album since Berry left, and crucially echoes a time when they made their best music, if not necessarily their biggest-selling.
REM have gone back in order to forge themselves a brighter future, and for that they should be applauded. Maybe they’ll even become cool to like again.
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Oxford's finest flit between gnarly rock and frustrating slickness on an often-brilliant fourth album