Mike Mills has been choosing his words carefully when bigging up REM’s 15th album, describing it as a cohesive work that “makes sense” in a similar fashion to Automatic For The People.
It’s a telling comparison by the bassist, because although their last record, Accelerate, was considered a return to form after a lengthy fallow period, it’s the 1992 release that remains their most universally adored.
In truth, however, Collapse Into Now takes a little from each of the albums that bookended Automatic, the aggressive power chords of Monster dominating the likes of Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter and All The Best, while the more reserved acoustic strummers (Überlin and It Happened Today – the latter featuring guest vocals from Eddie Vedder) suggest a desire to recapture the spirit of Losing My Religion from Out Of Time.
But while it undeniably sounds and acts like REM, thankfully it’s a little more inspired and adventurous than a generic will-this-do? exercise. The band aren’t breaking any new ground, but they are referencing the most pleasing aspects of their past.
Michael Stipe excels as an emotionally charged balladeer on the gentle Every Day Is Yours To Win, and guest Patti Smith brings an arty poetic edge to the fuzz guitar closer Blue.