R.E.M. moves up with album

The once fab four, now down to three, have done it again. R.E.M. is back – this time with a renewed spirit that blows away all expectations.

Up (Warner Bros.), the newest addition to the band’s list of 12-plus albums, is not the typical R.E.M. New fans beware, old fans rejoice: This album is for true fans, whose knowledge of the band exceeds knowing “Losing My Religion.”

Up is the perfect title – that one word best defines the explosion of the album. When drummer Bill Berry left R.E.M. after 18 years, the band’s future was up in the air. But the remaining core members – lead singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills – found a resurgence of energy that allowed the band to move on and move up. With the band in limbo, the door for artistic exploration swung wide open. R.E.M. grabbed the opportunity for creativity and did what it does best – make innovative music.

New Adventures In Hi-Fi, R.E.M.’s brilliant release of two years ago, did not receive the expected accolades. Up reaches back to R.E.M.’s early 1980s sound in some melodies, while continuing the lyric, thematic style of recent albums. Stipe explores the concepts of religion, spirituality, science and technology – the clashing subjects that engage his interest.

The album holds back on the electric guitar overload that defined Monster, but it is not as acoustic and mellow as some of the songs from Out Of Time. Up successfully finds the happy medium.

The first single, “Day Sleeper,” is a beautiful tale of the harrows and hardships of the corporate work world. In the song, Stipe’s characteristic voice reaches places that create a sense of nostalgia for fans of albums such as Murmur and Reckoning. In “At My Most Beautiful,” Stipe succeeds in producing a romantic song, which is purely beautiful but never becomes overly sentimental or clich?.

The most shocking element of Up is the cover. The band includes written lyrics of its songs for the first time. Listeners no longer need to speculate on the mumbled words coming from Stipe’s mouth. But fans may be disappointed that R.E.M. will not go on tour to promote the release.

Up defines the unity of a band with a history that spans two decades. If R.E.M. has not already proven it is one of the most influential and respected bands on the scene, this album is proof.

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