While in 2008's Accelerate marked what many described as a return to form for R.E.M., it also showcased their more direct, electric guitar-heavy side. Now on album number fifteen in their three decade career, Collapse Into Now is as close to a classic R.E.M. Album as the Georgia band have made since 1994's 'Monster'.
For a band that's been releasing albums since 1983, it's to R.E.M.'s credit that their music has aged impeccably and never seems to sound dated. That fact is more apparent on listening to Collapse Into Now, an album which echoes various points in their career and yet, crucially, never sounds like they're rehashing old ideas or retreading old ground. Among the sombre air of 'Uberlin', the uptempo drum and guitar bashing of 'That Someone Is You', the steadfast horns that ground 'Oh My Heart' or heart-lifting harmonies of 'It Happened Today', only 'Walk It Back' seems to drag slightly, and even it is held up by gorgeously atmospheric backing vocals and Jacknife Lee's proficient production.
Closer and standout track 'Blue' smacks of Out of Time's 'Country Feedback', employing mournful guitar to evoke a similarly dark tone as Stipe talks moodily through layers of distortion before being joined by Patti Smith, herself harking back to her own contribution to New Adventures In Hi-Fi's 'Ebow The Letter'. Peaches' turn on rollicking rock tune 'Alligator Aviator Autopilot' is also vaguely reminiscent of B52s frontwoman Kate Pierson's several turns on Out Of Time. Yet despite such familiarity and a certain level of self-reference, R.E.M. Sound every bit as good as they did at the peak of their career.