Accelerate, by R.E.M.
Going backwards from the last R.E.M. studio album, we come to the second-to-last such effort, Accelerate, an album that is if anything even more obscure than collapse into now, with only one song that has been streamed to any great degree (“Supernatural Superserious”). If one can say that the last album from the group feels like a farewell, do we find the same kind of feeling present in their penultimate album? It is not always accurate to read what we know of what happened into the past, but at the same time there are a lot of times where the issues that people and bands face fill their music for a while before things reach a crisis point, and can we see the same sort of feeling of struggle in this album that reflects a sense of malaise?
The album begins with “Living Well Is The Best Revenge,” an upbeat and driving song that is a standout for this album and a great beginning. “Man-Sized Wreath” is an obscure song but one that feels like a bit of a victory lap. “Supernatural Superserious,” the biggest hit off of the album, is a somewhat melancholy song but a good one, and one that suggests a somewhat mournful mood. “Hollow Man” shows the band wondering if they are indeed hollow men who have nothing more to say and offer than they already have before, a somewhat ominous sign, to be sure. “Houston” is a short track that reflects a sense of paranoia about the government and life. “Accelerate,” the title track, shows a desire for a change of direction. “Until The Day Is Done” has a doomer view of the disaster that the band views society as in the face of the Great Recession, and also hints at their own looking forward to the end of their own story. “Mr. Richards” has a rather fierce tone that reflects the general fierce attitude the band is showing at this period. “Sing For The Submarine” reflects another gloomy picture of the destruction and rebuilding of things, including perhaps the band itself. “Horse To Water” is a fierce and heavily distorted short song that reflects anger towards to someone. “I’m Gonna DJ” reflects more frustration with the music industry and the desire to cut out the middleman.
This is not a pleasant album to listen to, in the sense of it being full of sublime and beautiful and uplifting tracks. While 2008 was not a good year for everyone, it was an especially rough year to be the sort of whiny leftist activists who had endured 8 years under George W. Bush as president and had been very bad-tempered about it the whole time. The mood of the band suggests anger and a desire for change and progress that would be simultaneously rewarded and frustrated in short order. Yet when one examines the frustration that the band appeared to have with saying something new, it is perhaps not surprising that this album is not as popular as most of the band’s work is, because while it is by no means a bad album, it also tends to ruminate on its own frustration and anger more than it manages to say something useful or productive. A few songs on here are lovely, but they are when the anger burns out and what is left is sadness and gloominess. Anger is not a mood that suits this band well.