Tuesday, November 21, 2023

REM #14: Accelerate


Release Date: March 31, 2008

Members: Michael Stipe (vocals); Peter Buck (guitars); Mike Mills (bass, keyboards)

Produced by Jackknife Lee & REM

Track Listing: Living Well is the Best Revenge; Man-Sized Wreath; Supernatural Superserious; Hollow Man; Houston; Accelerate; Until the Day is Done; Mr. Richards; Sing for the Submarine; Horse to Water; I'm Gonna DJ

Accelerate marked a return to guitar driven rock for REM in what would be their penultimate LP.

A punk infused opener, "Living Well is the Best Revenge" also has a politically charged bent, "Man-Sized Wreath" continues in a similar vein, a song full of swagger mocking the idea of swagger and the political rhetoric of the post 9/11 era. "Supernatural Superserious" swerves into pure power pop mode, an observational look at American youth. "Hollow Man" may reference the T.S. Eliot poem "The Hollow Men", which envisioned futuristic men as violent and empty, but the REM song pushes against the sentiment. "Houston" offers subtle commentary on post-Hurricane Katrina climate in America, "if the storm doesn't kill me the government will." "Accelerate" is a moody rocker with a positive energy. "Until the Day is Done" throws scathing commentary at Big Business and all it represents in 21st Century America, especially timely in that it was written just before the 2008 crash. "Mr. Richards" satirizes a certain type of "W" era warmonger, preaching the merits of an aggressive foreign policy to callow youths. "Sing for the Submarine" is a surreal interlude, Stipe in perfect form delivering a dream soliloquy. "Horse to Water" is punk poetry, "I'm Gonna DJ" ends the record on a defiant and jubilant note. 

Accelerate was well received. The smooth production often masks the incisive political commentary, adding more depth to the record on repeated listens. At 34 minutes, it's also the shortest REM record. They undoubtedly sounded rejuvenated, a band still with something to prove. Not a classic by any means, but certainly a late career triumph. 

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