REM - Around the Sun
It is not the luckiest of numbers and the number 13 doesn’t hold much luck for REM. REM’s 13th album is the first since the release of In Time ‘Best of…’ in 2003, and the first album that sees the momentum of their refined classic and versatile pop slow down to a dull and discouraging thud, Around the Sun is disappointing and sadly unsurprising-- not at all lucky for REM, in any sense of the word.
2001’s Reveal showed glimpses of REM forming a stubborn style that rarely wavered out of a mode that was so unlike the spirit of the good ol’ days where we saw the inspiring Everybody Hurts, tales of a legend in Man on the Moon and the seminal acoustic work of Losing My Religion. And in Around the Sun, REM has taken what is now deemed to be their ‘classic’ sound and depressed it into a melancholic haze of their former selves and dare I say, REM do not seem to be the Shiny, Happy People they once were.
But that’s not to say that the album is entirely bad, it just seems to lack the vigour and innovation of REM yore, and some tracks do rise above the dispirited ennui. Leaving New York is multilayered, lovingly melodic and intricately orchestrated pop woven together like only REM can do. And refreshingly, Wanderlust shakes off the dust and bops along with a sense of freedom in Michael Stipe and also shows joviality in REM’s instrumentation.
Around the Sun is meant to be a political album and with no obvious mentions in the lyrics, the listener is free to read deeper and perhaps come across some subliminal ‘Vote Kerry’ messages. REM are currently headlining a series of shows in the US entitled “Vote for Change” to help oust President Bush, and with a downhearted album out now, it seems that REM are very bummed about today’s political climate indeed.