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R.E.M. - Reveal




They're back. The veterans of some 27 years have just released their umpteenth studio album, and it delivers in a way I didn't expect it to. After their previous album, ‘Reveal', I was unsure of what direction the band was taking. The major changes in REM's sound coincided with losing their drummer. Instead of replacing him, they decided to use session drummers, and add a lot more electronic sounds to their music. Some thought it was a winner, but judging by album sales alone, the majority of fans lost touch. It started with their first release as a 3 piece, ‘Up', and then progressed further when ‘Reveal' was released. A lot less guitar was evident, and there was plenty of layered sound effects throughout their music. It wasn't a bad thing, but it certainly wasn't the REM that people had grown to love.

  

Having said that, there has been little predictability from album to album when REM are concerned, so it is no wonder that they have chosen a different path. Their new release, ‘Around The Sun', however, sees them returning to a sound that wasn't really heard on their last record. Now, there are no ‘End of The World As We Know It's on here, however a lot of the songs are reminiscent of their style on ‘Up'. The guitars return, and there is even a hint of distorted guitar on a couple of tracks – something not seen from the boys since New Adventures In Hi-Fi.

  

The songs on ‘Around The Sun', for the most part, are very easy to listen to. The element of sound effects are still there, however the guitar is a lot more prominent. Most of the songs seem to be structured around the guitar and Michael Stipe's vocals, which ends up creating a sound which is much easier on the ear. A lot of the songs have a haunting sound to them, with almost a sad feeling throughout the album. Upon first hearing this album, while it is great to listen to, I couldn't help but feel a little sad, or at lest concerned. This record, to me, feels like a ‘goodbye' album. A couple of things made me feel like that. Mainly the return to a more conventional sound, which gives me the feeling that this is a parting album for the long time fans. Also the lyrical content on a lot of the tracks just give off the feeling that it might be the end. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but if this was the end, it wouldn't be a bad note to finish up on.

  

‘Around The Sun' is really nothing new, which is probably its only falling down point. At this stage of their career I had expected the new album to take a completely different direction, however this album does feel a little bit like a re-hashed version of ‘Up'. That's not a bad thing, because ‘Up' was a very good record, but I had expected something out of the box. Personally though, I'm really happy with this album. The songwriting is great, its very easy to listen to, and Michael Stipe still sounds great. There are plenty of great tracks on this record, namely ‘The Outsiders', ‘The Ascent Of Man', ‘I Wanted To Be Wrong', and the first single ‘Leaving New York, and I'd be hard pressed to name a bad song. They have obviously put a lot of work into the songwriting processes for this record and they have succeeded in creating a top notch album that anyone can enjoy, albeit not coming with a lot of new ideas.

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