Collapse Into Now, by R.E.M.
When one listens to the last album by a band, there is a certain sense of melancholy in the foreknowledge that there was nothing original after this. The material of an album takes on a certain glow in knowing that this is the end. Collapse Into Now happens to be last studio album by alternative rock greats R.E.M., and what sort of enjoyment is there in listening to their somewhat obscure final album to see what it was that the band had to offer at its moment of dissolution? Is this album a tired farewell or is it a resolute defiance of the final end that appears to be approaching? Let us uncover this album track by track.
“Discoverer” begins the album with a rousing track that is also a retrospective look at how one can be a discoverer and accomplish great deeds but leave a mess behind you, as has been known for discoverers. “All The Best” is another driving rock song that pushes for one more time to show the younger kids how to make good rock music. “Überlin” is a pleasant song, and a worthy single, about wanting to go out with someone. “Oh My Heart” is another song that reflects on the relationship of one’s heart to the state of music and youth. “It Happened Today” is a somewhat vague but beautiful bittersweet celebratory ode. “Every Day Is Yours To Win” manages to be a cynical empowerment song, but a lovely one nonetheless. “Mine Smell Like Honey” seems like a taunt with the singer praising his own efforts while saying that someone is going to do what they do anyway. “Walk It Back” is a melancholy effort at recovering an endangered relationship harmed by hostile communication. “Aligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” is another one of those upbeat but nonsense songs that R.E.M. specialized in for much of their career. “That Someone Is You” is an upbeat and cheerful song of appreciation for someone. “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Bando, and I” is a downbeat folk-rock song about the faults of heroes. “Blue” is a lengthy album closer that showcases distorted guitar, spoken-word lyrics, and a reprise of the first song to end the album where it began.
There is a sense of melancholy in listening to an album like this more than ten years after it was released. At the time, R.E.M. were thought to be tired retreads trying desperately to create vital new rock music decades after their peak, but in the aftermath of a decade that has been nothing but disastrous for rock music as a whole, this album listened with that space appears to be new, a defiant effort to provide one last example of a great album by a great band to teach the youngsters how it was done. And it was simply not followed up on by those who were most popular in the rock and alternative scene. And so this album remains as a melancholy and self-conscious farewell from a band that felt it could not provide anything new but still provided its sound better than a vast majority of what has come since then, and there is great sadness in that.