The Record Lounge: Reviews 03/09/11 – R.E.M., The Bright Light Social Hour

R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now

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Liberation can be a freeing element in one’s life, be it by your choice of someone else’s. Or even just the end of something that has run its course. As R.E.M. most certainly have witnessed the music industry change so much in the very recent past, the thought of liberation had to have been a goal, a goal they realized once they handed in Collapse Into Now, the 15th career full-length release and final album for their long-time label Warner Brothers.

Since 1988, R.E.M. and Warner Brothers have been together. During their 23 year relationship, released 10 albums, negotiated a deal which – at the time – was the biggest royalty deal any band had ever secured (roughly $2.00 per album sold), and made each other lots of money. Lots.

My initial knee-jerk reaction was this could be a top 5 R.E.M. album. But, alas, it is not. Upon further examination, and some discussion with other sizeable fans, the realization came that yes, this is possibly the strongest work the band has presented since drummer Bill Berry’s unfortunate departure, yet is unable to fully measure up to classics like Life’s Rich Pagaent, Automatic For The People, Fables of the Reconstruction, and the list goes on. It’s not fair to compare the two eras. But people always will.

Collapse Into Now borrows elements from all sides of R.E.M.’s storied career. The near battle cry arrival of “Discover” may have fit somewhere on Document alongside the lead single “Mine Smell Like Honey”, whereas “Oh My Heart”, recalls Out Of Time, and “It Happened Today”, “Walk It Back”, and “Every Day Is Yours To Win” may have seen light on either Up or Reveal. It was pointed out to me that the beginning and end are very strong, but the middle may be a bit forgettable. As is the case. But be ready to wake up for the final third of the album. “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” charges at you with a fury and a nice guest spot from Peaches, “That Someone is You” is a short sweet blast of early R.E.M. reminding you why you loved them in the first place, followed by the mandolin enhanced “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I“, and closing out with the Patti Smith collaboration “Blue”, literally bringing the album back full circle.

The Hall of Famers latest release may be a chapter ender, but more importantly leads the band into a new realm: independence. Will they go the way of some of their younger contemporaries Radiohead, Wilco or Nine Inch Nails, governing their career and music by their own hand and continual technological advances, or sign another deal with someone else?  Personally, I would relish in a fiercely independent R.E.M., returning to their indie roots.

Whatever their decision is, good luck gentlemen, I hope we all continue the ride together.

The Bright Light Social Hour – New Year’s Live EP

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This is a nice little piece for anyone who has seen the power of this band in a live setting. Attempting to harness their stage presence in a studio can be quite a task, which they aptly did on last year’s self-titled debut, but New Year’s Live seems to capture that essence even a bit further. Comprised of 2 crowd favorites – the dance floor anthems “Shanty” and “Detroit”, and 2 well picked extended covers, “Young Man Blues” (Mose Alison/The Who) and “Mannish Boy” (Muddy Waters).

Recorded 12/31/10 before a sold-out audience at The Parish in Austin, New Year’s Live is only a digital release at the moment, and videos for two of the performances, “Shanty” and “Young Man Blues” can be seen on Youtube, but a physical release is in the works. If you are not familiar with this band, please, do yourself the favor and gamble on downloading this EP. I dare you.

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~ by thesynaptic on March 9, 2011.

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