With just the slightest bit of finesse
I might have made a little less mess
But it was what it was
Let's all get on with it now
It is with those words from “Discoverer”, the opening track of their latest Bill Berry-less effort, Collapse Into Now, that R.E.M. practically writes this review for me. I grew up a super-fan of this band. My license plate for at least 10 years read “BBMSTYP”. I have every single, every B-side, and practically every other piece of recorded material that the band has ever released. In saying this, please understand that I don’t presume that the band owes myself or anyone anything. I’m just saying this to point out that I have a history with R.E.M. A LOT of people have a history with R.E.M.
Now I think it’s time for that history to end.
I’m going to keep referring to Berry in this review not because I think his return could fix the giant musical mess that the bands catalog has become but to delineate and differentiate between the “good” R.E.M. and whatever the f@#@ this crap is we’ve been being fed for the past decade. Look, everyone gave the band a pass when they recorded Up and if I’m honest with myself, I really enjoy parts of that record. It was definitely a departure for the band but it treads familiar enough ground and while shaky at times, was at least lyrically strong enough to hold my interest. And, I didn’t want the band to be over. So there was that. In my mind R.E.M. hadn’t ever produced a bad album up till this point (say what you will about New Adventures In Hi-Fi, but 15 years later album still sounds pretty relevant, even if it is arguably the weakest album in their catalog to feature Berry) and all that goodwill was simply transferred onto Up and it got a pass. Had I been more logical about it I probably would have abandoned the band right then and there, because all of the seeds that would further ruin the band’s music for me in the future were planted right there. I just never expected them to try and follow through on it. From then on out, each album has defied imagination and actually been worse than the last, until by the time they got to Around The Sun they were producing albums so unlistenable that they could only be described with the phrase “s@# sandwich”.