The star tells NME.COM the band's new material "shouldn't be fucked with"....

REM are to return to the studio early in the new year to recommence work on a new album – and frontman MICHAEL STIPE says it’s sounding “crystalline” and “real”.

The band had already started recording and writing new songs for the follow-up to 2001’s ‘Reveal’ before interrupting their progress to go on a tour of Europe and North America to promote their recently released best of compilation ‘In Time’.

Stipe told NME.COM the band are now raring to go – and he says he’s full of confidence about the material they are laying down for their 13th studio album.

He said: “We’re going back into the studio in January, and we have seven songs to finish before mid-January to present as possibilities for the next album. And we have six that we’ve already done. And there are another 13 I want to work on, but I don’t know.

“In the universe that is REM

we’ve always pushed forward and tried to push the boundaries of our abilities as far out as we can. For me this is a radical change and a radical mindset change – and it’s as a three-piece. Confidence isn’t something I’ve felt as a songwriter for a long while and that makes for a really great music. There’s stuff which is crystalline and real and shouldn’t be fucked with and should just go down on tape. That’s what I’m shooting for.”

Among the songs the band have been working on include ‘Weatherman’, ‘Make It All OK’, ‘I’m Gonna DJ’ and the anti-war song ‘Final Straw’, which the band made available as a download on their official website earlier this year.

The record is expected to be released in late 2004, and REM have already revealed they will go on a world tour following the record’s release.

See this week’s NME, dated November 22, for a full ‘Peter Robinson Versus Michael Stipe’ interview.