The last few days have been busy days for REM fans. First there was the release of Discoverer, the first song off their upcoming album "Collapse into Now." I'm not terribly excited about this first song. It's a little too "shouty" for me and it's a bit of a bastard child of Crush with Eyeliner meets Finest Worksong disproving that two positives make another positive.
I refuse to believe that Stipe's voice is so shot that he can no longer sing and must talk-shout from here on out. He started doing that live, most notably (and regretably) in So Fast, So Numb, one of their most beautiful songs. Now it's a song sung by a carnival barker -- or a bad comedian upping the volume on the punchline. It's sad if that's all his voice can do, sadder still if he can still sing but chooses not to.
Today they are releasing a preview of a few more songs off the album and, after listening to it, I'm feeling a little more upbeat about this album's prospects than I did after the initial listen to that first song.
I particularly like two of the songs that are featured, the one starting at 0:38 (Mine Smells like Honey, perhaps?) and the one at 1:15. Both have good, memorable hooks and more soul than some of REM's most recent written-for-a-huge-stadium songs. And in each case, I hear actual singing.
Also available is a low quality version of a new song that way made available to people who preorder the album this week from iTunes. It's another bit of insight into the direction of the new album and, like the teaser samplings from earlier today, left me feeling more optimistic than Discoverer did. It's called It Happened Today. It has the old jangly guitar we fell in love with so many years ago and a sensitive, gentle lead vocal from Stipe. It purports to include Eddie Vedder, but except for a few notes near the end, I'm not hearing it. I am hearing a lot of Mike Mills and, you know, I love the guy. He's immensely talented and is an equal partner in the group, but he doesn't have the...how to put this nicely...strongest, most pleasing to the ears voice out there. Less of him would have been more and more, much more Eddie, would have been divine.
For the record, the "Hip Hip Hooray" is not an inspired lyrical choice. I let it slide a few years ago when it found its way in the song, I Don't Sleep, I Dream. But then it was a small bit of a larger, more lyrically interesting song, not the alleged payoff. The album doesn't come out till March; perhaps they can change the lyrics before it comes out. Let me offer some improvements: Yippe yahoo yay? Oh me, oh my, oy vay? Anything would be an improvement.
"Collapse into Now" is scheduled for release March 8, 2011. Here is the official press release concerning the album:
For Collapse Into Now, R.E.M., which is singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills, re-teamed with Grammy Award-winning producer Jacknife Lee, who produced the band’s acclaimed previous album Accelerate. Lee is also noted for his work on albums by U2, Snow Patrol, The Hives, and indie stalwarts Kasabian, Editors, Aqualung, and Bloc Party. R.E.M. and Lee recorded the album in New Orleans at the Music Shed and in Berlin at the famed Hansa Studios, where several legendary albums, including David Bowie’s Heroes, U2’s Achtung Baby, and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, were made. Additional recording and mixing was done at the venerable Blackbird Studio in Nashville.
The band has also revealed that Collapse Into Now features some very special guests: Patti Smith, guitarist Lenny Kaye, Peaches, Eddie Vedder, and The Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb.
The track-listing for "Collapse Into Now" is as follows:
All The Best
Oh My Heart
It Happened Today
Every Day Is Yours To Win
Mine Smell Like Honey
Walk It Back
Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter
That Someone Is You
Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I