R.E.M.: Collapse Into Now

R.E.M. first came out of the American indie underground scene in the late 1980s based in Athens, Ga. They released their classic

debut album Murmur in 1981, blending punk and melody into one condensed, ground-breaking album, thus inventing modern indie rock.

Fifteen years later they bring Collapse Into Now, a beautiful tapestry of all of the tricks and inspirations that the band has picked up over the years. Piano ballads, mandolin, Mike Stipe’s soulful whine, Peter Buck’s legendary right hand and guest appearances from friends Patti Smith and Eddie Vedder, are what shape the album. They are also what separate this album from R.E.M.’s other mediocre releases. Stipe’s vocals rarely stood out on the group’s last few albums. There was a harder edge made present this time around compared to the band’s earlier work. The isolation of Stipe’s voice on numerous tracks, specifically “Everyday Is Yours to Win” and “Uberlin,” take the listener back to R.E.M. gems like “Nightswimming” and “Everybody Hurts.”  

While 2008’s Accelerate seemed to be R.E.M.’s return to alternative rock, Collapse Into Now cements the band’s place as legends. The bleak yet elegant “Uberlin” and the bombastic “Discoverer” make up this diverse and loud record: a perfect musical description of this group.

One of the popular favorites on the album is the goofy and guitar arpeggio-driven “Mine Smell Like Honey.”  This track should be categorized as essentially Peter Buck and an example of classic R.E.M. It sounds like a more distorted and fuller version of “Radio Free Europe,” the band’s first single. The song also captures the significant contribution of Mike Mills on bass.  Mill’s rich background vocals are what drives R.E.M.’s melodic machine that complement Stipe’s pipes beautifully.  

In a sense, this album brings new material from the band that is somewhat nostalgic. The members seemed to draw on every song that they recorded in their illustrious 15-album, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career and put it into one. Collapse Into Now is a treat for those who appreciate vintage R.E.M.