R.E.M. picks up the pace on 'Accelerate
null When R.E.M. was at its peak, its music was filled with urgency and energy - something the band lost over the years. After a decade of what singer Michael Stipe calls unfocused studio efforts, R.E.M. picks up the pace on the enjoyable "Accelerate," its first album since 2004. Equal parts political commentary and personal introspection, "Accelerate" contains many of the hallmarks of the early R.E.M. sound abandoned in its middle age. Here though the jangly guitar and ambulatory bass lines are more about jittery nerves than beautiful atmospherics, the high harmonies more Greek chorus moan than a reflection of the joy the band shared with millions of fans while making groundbreaking rock 'n' roll in the 1980s. Stipe, one of our great storytellers, is as sharp and wickedly funny as ever here. In "Man Sized Wreath," he sings, "Turn on the TV/What do I see?/A pageantry of empty gestures/All lined up for me." In "Houston," a song featuring acoustic guitar, mandolin and an insistent organ line that sounds like a warning siren, he opens with, "If the storm doesn't kill me the government will." And in the powerful punch of "Horse to Water," he sings, "Bring a horse to water and watch him drown."