|Click on the image to find out why I'm happy. :)|
As I sit down comfortably on my computer chair once again, I breathe a sigh of relief, content with the knowledge that my exams are over and done with. I do have one more day left of German exams, but they're not the kind you can really revise for.
Which means I can get back to what I really enjoy - blogging! Sadly, during my absence (I did, however, post a couple of bootlegs - just scroll down) much has happened in the R.E.M. world. Although I only mentioned it in a small update earlier last week, I am pleased to once again relay the fact that our good friend Ivana from Mike Mills Tribute has once again made the news at R.E.M. HQ, with her amazing cover of Discoverer from the new album! By major coincidence I was browsing the site at the time the news was posted on the HQ. I was bored, so a refreshed the page, and a weekly roundup popped up out of nowhere. Curious, I clicked on it, and down at the bottom of the article was Ivana's link! Naturally, I raced over to Mike Mills Tribute and, in a whirlwind of exclamation marks and smiley faces, I told her the news. :)
This isn't the first time Ivana's been on R.E.M. HQ, however - last year, her cover of Wolves, Lower, recorded to celebrate the band's 30th anniversary, was also picked up by the kind folk at the R.E.M. offices in Georgia. You can see the video here.
But that's not all! Recently, the band released some new interview material via various websites, plus a live video of Mine Smell Like Honey. While the interviews themselves don't tell us very much, the "making of" video gives us our first ever glimpse of All the Best, a song from Collapse Into Now which we hadn't heard before now. Below is the video on YouTube:
Not only that, but Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter (try saying that three times fast!) is featured a lot more heavily, with a little snippet of the previously-unheard chorus. I don't know about you, but I think this'll be a head-banger.
And of course, Mine Smell Like Honey is here. Despite my initial poor reviews of the song, I had always maintained the belief that it would sound much better live, much like I'm Gonna DJ from Accelerate. I'm not normally one to blow my own trumpet, but it looks like I was right on this one!
Michael's voice has a much more gravelly, rock-style tone than in the studio version - his vocals on the record sound like a smoker whose voice is giving out. Granted, Stipe does smoke, but I've never noticed it prior to MSLH. Also, that third backing vocal has gone, allowing us to at last clearly hear Mike's harmonies. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad that extra vocal isn't there. This song has been around since the days of Accelerate - I have two recordings of an instrumental version that they played during the '08 tour - and in retrospect we can see the similarities. With heavy guitars, the band never staying too long on one musical idea... this could easily have been on the last album, were it not for the strange 'pop song' feel to it. Just a guess, but I think that may have been aided by the arpeggios that the lead guitar plays.
There are some other videos lurking around, but nothing that gives us anything really new. While I'm looking forward to Collapse Into Now, I'd rather the band stopped releasing content until March. Why, you ask? The answer is plain and simple - the more I hear songs from the album, the less I think I'll be blown away by it. And judging from what we've seen so far, that's exactly what the new record deserves: the opportunity to blow us away.
While we're on the subject, the first reviews have surfaced! Alas, so far they haven't been very positive. Q gives it just 2 stars, and UNCUT, while being a little more generous, still only gives the album 3 stars. Rolling Stone and Gigbless are the two reviews that are better-than-average, with 4 stars each! As for the bad reviews, I'd like to repost what I wrote on MMT on the subject yesterday, which pretty much sums up my feelings towards the press:
It seems that the press are just going to compare this album to the rest of R.E.M.’s back catalogue, which IMHO isn’t in the least bit fair. The band are probably never going to have another “Automatic for the People”, so why keep reminding us?You really just can't compare R.E.M.'s latest ventures with the work they did in the 80s and 90s, because that was then and this is now. It's important to take their new albums at face value, rather than prattle on about how the band aren't relevant anymore. So what if Oh My Heart isn't as melancholy as Drive? So what if Discoverer isn't as politically charged and relevant as Finest Worksong? Besides, when you take all their albums from Up onwards, this is looking like it'll be the best yet.
Keep in mind this is just my opinion. I'm neither right or wrong on this one, and it's up to you how you see the band in the 21st century. Don't like Collapse Into Now? That's fine by me. But whatever you do, approach in the same way you should with all music - with an open mind.
UPDATE: R.E.M. HQ has just posted a feature on Losing My Religion, in celebration of its 20th anniversary. Head over there and take a peek!