R.E.M. return — angry and with drums. So welcome them back
Just when you hoped R.E.M. had died because they got too old, they remind us that they aren’t yet irrelevant wrinkled fogies. They made us suffer through such "matured" (read: slow) discs like "Reveal," and "atmospheric" (read: bland) albums like "Up," and that last turd, "Around the Sun," (read: over-polished and dispassionate).
With "Accelerate," they’ve turned it back up to 11 and have stopped wasting our time. Eleven tracks race by at 35 minutes. Gay singer Michael Stipe is pissed off, and Peter Buck’s guitars are a mostly a cacophony of distorted power chords.
They’re loud and angry. Just like the old days — before drummer Bill Berry’s brain tumor made R.E.M. a trio. With the help of Ministry percussionist Bill Rieflin, the band’s sound is solid, confident and "turbo-charged."
What’s Stipe so angry about? The 21st Century — how as a teenager he had dreamed of a future that would be bright and optimistic. This new collection of raw-flavored songs are Stipe’s chance to bitterly scream before the apocalypse.
Laced with a catchy-pop edge, Stipe recalls his youth in "Supernatural Superserious," "At the summer camp they volunteered / No one saw your face, no one saw your fear …. Humiliation / Of your teenage nation."
He’s also annoyed with the media. In "Man-Sized Wreath," he sings, "Turning on the TV and what do I see? / A pageantry of empty gestures all lined up for me — Wow!"
The Lone Star State gets name checked in his post-Katrina exodus, "Houston." The chorus is gorgeous: "Houston is filled with promise / Laredo is a beautiful place / Galveston sings like that song that I loved / Its meaning has not been erased."
But nothing beats the noise-fest album closer, "I’m Gonna DJ," which was an out-take from "Around the Sun." A mix of glam-rock, rap and "end of the world as we know it" ethos, R.E.M. prove they’re not dinosaurs. They found their religion again.
NEO-SOUL DIVA DOES DALLAS
Why does Angie Stone always sound like R&B perfection? Because she’s got Marvin Gaye’s soul. In fact, her latest album, "The Art of Love and War" (Stax) was mixed at Marvin’s Room — Gaye’s old studio in Los Angeles.
Stone denied the rumor that, in 2002, she had asked the "strong black brothas" in a Newark audience to raise their hands — as opposed to the "homos" in the crowd. Her sound is smooth and classy. And her live performances always earn raves. Our sweet-and-funky sista plays North Texas on Friday.
NOKIA, 1001 Performance Place. Grand Prairie. Apr 4 at 8 p.m. $39.50-$49.50. 214-373-8000 .
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 4, 2008.