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REM - Around The Sun   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Friday, 08 October 2004
Where are REM?

 

It's a question you'll be asking more and more often over the coming few years. As they ascend ever further up the line of being legends, the thing that made them legends slips ever further away.

 

"Around The Sun", their thirteenth album, is proof positive that thirteen is an unlucky number : gone are the trademarks of REM's genius, and buried is the reborn indie-rock animal that toured last year and exhumed McCarthy in a series of thrilling, wonderful shows. Instead, "Around The Sun" is the type of album you would expect from Keane, or Snow Patrol. Accountant rock made by people who want to be older than they are.

The first thing that strikes you really, is "Leaving New York" aside, is how dull this record is. There are no high or low points ; no fast or slow numbers. Just a uniform landscape of barren, featureless rock. It's on this record that Bill Berry's absence is felt more deeply than ever before : Bill Rieflin (ex-Ministry, Revolting Cocks, and Nine Inch Nails) is woefully underused, replaced by a standard 4/4 setting on a generic drum machine, that doesn't play so much as plods, trudges on like a tired commuter on autopilot.

 

This record sounds the way the desert looks. Spare, empty. And the band's muse appears to have deserted them : musically bland, lyrically it's trite. Some may say the lyrics offer a more exposed, naked Stipean approach
(he even sings "I love you forever" on the lead-off single), but frankly, stripped of the intelligent wordplay, "Around The Sun" is a lyrical void.

 

There are moments of genius, when Stipe breaks out of the flattened landscape, and offers such soaring moments as "it's easier to leave than to be left behind" (from Leaving New York). But for every soaring moment that connects with an emotional suckerpunch worthy of truly great music, you get ten minutes of bland MOR and obviously straightforward lyrics. These are the type of songs you can imagine, if you really must, being sung by housewives who think they're hip and go to one concert a year. It's Stadium Whinge-rock, and parks and stadiums across the country will be sent to sleep by this next summer.

 

"Around The Sun" is, barring the heartfelt "Leaving New York", and the devasting, yet pointedly vague "The Final Straw", a waste. "Wanderlust", the REM-by-numbers fastish song is an unremarkable, forced attempt to write a single ; and a failure. Even if "Imitation Of Life" was REM-by-numbers, it was good. This just rings hollow, like an empty vessel making noise.In the long run, I just hope that "Around The Sun" is better than it sounds : I hope that at some point the record will unfold like a flower and  I'll suddenly find it's genius.

 

In the meantime, from the bolted on and superflous rapping, the turgid beats, and the overall sense of exhausted, depressed inertia that sucks away the talent like a black hole, "Around The Sun" indicates that REM have gone around the sun, left us far behind, and will never return, lost in a world of their own indulged artistic irrelevancy. Like a bad action movie, it's all machines and no soul.

Comments
Written by Guest on 2004-10-10 16:28:12
:x
Can't agree..
Written by Guest on 2004-10-16 16:50:12
 
REM biggest problem is that in 1992 they achieved near musical perfection with Automatic. Every subsequent album will, sadly, never be viewed as good. And if we're honest, there are few who can continue to perform at such a high level. I would wager if The Beatles had still been putting out albums in 1980 they would have been a pale shadow of what had gone before. 
 
However, I think Around The Sun is a damn fine offering from the Athens 3 (ok, maybe they no longer live in Athens, but hey..). It has a subtle beauty about that delivers stronger with every listen. Wanderlust is REM by numbers?! I don't believe they have ever sounded like Oasis before (see "She's Electric).. Ascent of Man is fantastic, Make It all Okay is beautiful and other highlights are The Worst Joke Ever and Boy In The Well.  
 
This offering cerainly beats the recent U2 single..
Written by Guest on 2004-10-28 12:40:28
:roll  
I LOVE : R.E.M, 
:p  
"Around The Sun"-It's a "special" good album!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
;)
mali
Written by Guest on 2004-12-11 05:10:18
hey!I'm just listening the best thing this year,THE OUTSIDERS,who would try to disagree? :grin :grin Code:

maleni
Written by Guest on 2004-12-11 05:13:08
I AM NOT AFRAID,I AM NOT AFRAID ... 
The whole album is powerfull! :roll
charles akl
Written by Guest on 2004-12-17 04:19:59
when you are releated with a band like r.e.m. you will like and appriciate every god damn thing they do and you will undrestand why they did it... when i listen to the album i put in my mind the idea that micheal stipe knows what he want to say and he mean it anyway, that what makes the album very special... i think if i listned to the same album as if it's another band release i don't think i'll like it this much.... i love r.e.m. and it makes me accept every thing they meandxcharles_akl@hotmail.com

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