Tuesday, 1 March 2011

First impressions of Collapse Into Now, as it happens!

Hello again once more to everyone out there on the Internet! This may be quite a short post*, as this is going to be written 'live', in a way. Over on NPR  fans of the band are getting a free one-time only stream of Collapse Into Now, and my plan for this blog post is to write my impressions of each song as it comes. However, this is one-time only, which means I won't be able to do any detailed analysis, plus my comments may be of varying length depending on how fast I can type! Here I go:

DISCOVERER: Ahh, the classic. Nothing much else to say here! (UPDATE: Read my review from January if you're interested in a detailed look.)

ALL THE BEST: Woah, sweet. Slightly dissonant, reminds me of Accelerate - the song. Mills has a groovy chorus bassline, and there's a nice high guitar drone from Buck/McCaughey. Stipe sounds like he's rapping!
The bridge is nothing like I've ever heard from R.E.M. before. Oh man, that is an awesome breakdown! Geez, I wish you guys were here to hear this....

UBERLIN: I've already reviewed this song at length, too. Check out my review, if you wish. This song is still as melancholy and moody as ever. Mike is on top form, providing a vocal contrast to Michael. Would have been nice to have the guitars just a little lower in the mix, but hey. The synths are nice, not too overpowering, and they give the track a spacey feel, which in turn is boosted by the lyrics e.g. "star", "meteor".
Best bit: "We walk to the streets to feel the ground I'm chasing, Uberlin." :)

OH MY HEART: I've never been a fan of most R.E.M. ballads, but this one's okay - like Houston but with acoustic guitars and undistorted snares. Probably a track I'd usually skip over on my iPod. The Mills/McCaughey harmonies are just a bit too free-flowing for my liking, and the mandolin is another instrument I'm not too fond of here. Despite this, it's still a lovely ballad, and the three singers sound emotive and meaningful.

IT HAPPENED TODAY: After hearing the multitracks, it's amazing what you can pick out once you know it's there. Three bass synths, three mandolins, ambient drone guitars... hell, even two pianos! This is undoubtedly my favourite song out of all those I've heard so far, but All the Best comes pretty close. Ooh, here comes Vedder...

EVERY DAY IS YOURS TO WIN: New song! Opens with a clean, relaxed guitar. Stipe's got a delay effect, like in Drive. Rieflin has some great low drums here, and Buck has a finger-picking section that arrives around the second verse.  Wow... didn't expect that explosion of sound at the second chorus! The jump from that section into the bridge is a little awkward - it's like Good Vibrations. Mike's doing an "ahhhh" in he background during the part we've heard in the trailer, and the track smoothly segways into the previously-heard "hey-yeah"s. My least favourite song so far, but that doesn't mean I don't like it!

MINE SMELL LIKE HONEY: Now that I've heard it in higher quality (my iPod has a rubbish copy), Mine Smell Like Honey actually sounds pretty good. Not exactly up to the standard of most of the record so far, but it fits in comfortably with All the Best and Discoverer, the two rockers. Tremolo guitar at the end, which you may not have noticed.

WALK IT BACK: Sounds kinda... country... Walk It Back has a relaxed feel to it - the piano part heard here was actually a rehearsal. There's nothing much here in this track initially: piano, acoustic guitar, vocals, but it builds up. Mike's currently wailing in the background (not in the bad sense, mind)! This feels like something The Eagles would release in the 2000s, only better. Ambient noise in the background, reminds me of Uberlin, or that dubmix on the Christmas single.

ALLIGATOR AVIATOR AUTOPILOT ANTIMATTER: Ka-pow! Double-tracked vocals, overdriven guitars, octave bass... the song seeps rock! Peaches was an unexpected surprise the second part of verse one, but you get used to her. This is head-banger, all right, and such a catchy riff. Peaches has a spoken section during the bridge. "STARED AT ME!" was a great moment, and the constant rhyming gives the song a feeling of urgency. Great track.

THAT SOMEONE IS YOU: Starts off a standard pop/rock song, and doesn't really do anything else. Harmonies are nice, and the lyrics are refreshing (Pacino? Torino?). But gee, it's short! I can't type this fast... my head hurts....

ME, MARLON BRANDO, MARLON BRANDO AND I: Slow start, sustained piano and mandolin are interesting instruments. The 12-string and string sections come in, and Marlon Brando now feels like a mourning song, devoid of drums and 'rock' instruments. The change from verse to chorus is an odd sensation, which I can't really explain. Mills has a cool backing vocal after the second chorus, present pretty far on both sides of the pan.

BLUE: FEEDBACK! The chord progression and song in general reminds me of another R.E.M. song, but I can't put my finger on it. Orange Crush-style speaking at the beginning. Patti Smith sounds like an alien, and metallic percussion and distorted guitars place the listener in an industrial/wet setting. Does that make sense? Probably not.
And there are the immortal words... Collapse. Into. Now.
Finally, we can hear what Patti is singing, but "Cinderella Boy" may come as a surprise to some who expected a more straightforward song.

Wait a sec... Discoverer!?! Aw man, that is soooo.... cool! Building up, and up - Mike enters - main riff - Michael shouting his vocals at the top of his range... this is something not to be missed.

Wow. That was hard. But let me tell you this - Collapse Into Now may just be one of the best R.E.M. albums I've ever heard. I'd hesitate to say original, despite the great songs, because the band pays homage to many of its past records. Collapse has the rockiness of Accelerate, the electronica of Up, even the jangliness of Murmur occasionally... I could go on, but then again, you could just see for yourselves when you buy the album. Rest assured, it's fantastic!

Yours truly,

P.S. Figured out the song that Blue sounds like. It's Country Feedback mixed with E-bow the Letter!

*Well, I thought it would be at least. How wrong I was...

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