R.E.M. Around the Sun

R.E.M. Around the Sun
Photo: Jack Pierson
Though they may not be making music that is at the same level they were at in the ’80s, R.E.M. have always been a fairly dependable band. Of course, with each new album, they will only really appeal to their devoted fan base (new fans seem unlikely at this point), however, that is well into the millions, so what do they have to worry about? Well, there’s always something, because Michael Stipe has that tonal distress, yet again on Around the Sun, the band’s 13th album proper to date. Reportedly written to capture the feeling of what it’s like to live in the U.S. at the moment, R.E.M. have certainly created a mood record, and it quickly becomes evident that America is not peachy keen. With the trio currently speaking out in support of ousting Bush, one would think Around the Sun would be knee deep in Stipe professing their political leanings, but if this is a political record, they’ve hidden it well. "Leaving New York” is a typically pretty tune that is a good choice to begin this brooding affair. It has that uplifting quality that the band excels in distributing, however, almost immediately, you lose the sensation when Q-Tip begins rhyming on the very sombre, down-tempo "The Outsiders.” Yes, R.E.M. apparently didn’t learn their lesson from the KRS-One-assisted "Radio Song” from 14 years ago. But that is about the only spot where the band misses significantly. Around the Sun is a fairly predictable record, once you figure out the band’s mood. They are R.E.M. and they make music unlike anyone else, so regardless, you’re getting a solid record from one of the world’s biggest bands, which should be enough, right? (Warner)