REM, I feel, do not get enough credit for the way in which they've grown old gracefully. Without mentioning any names, (U2) many other mega bands have found it hard to enjoy a long career without going all David Brent and having a mid life crisis. By this I mean trying to 'shake things up' in an attempt to adapt to the Itunes generation. Why bother adapting to a generation that only listen to an album for however long it takes them to get off the treadmill or reach their stop on the Tube? If you've already got a massive and I mean massive established and loyal fan base, why not just stick with them and make the music you want to make? New generations of fans can dig it if they like, and if not they can stick to the latest one album wonder doing the rounds.
REM seem to have taken this said route, sticking to their guns while by no means standing still. Of course there have been blips along the way, as you would expect, and there are even moments on Collapse into Now that are far from inspiring but they are few and far between, as seems to be the case with the really good bands. And REM are one of the really good bands. Uberlin is testament to that, a track as good as anything they've released since their chart smashing days of Automatic for the People. A mainly acoustic gem that offers a master class in song writing, its melodic styling's are tempered by a brooding vocal that drags it down to earth yet keep it moving in the right direction. The same can be said for Me Marlon Brando and I, although in a more stripped down form, that shows the album at its most vulnerable.
This isn't an intense rock n roll album by any means, its more ballad than it is stomper, its REM at their melodic and heartfelt best. However don't let that fool you into thinking it's a safe record, bar It Happened Today, there are no real MOR sides to REM. it's a brilliant mixture of REM old and REM new, Mine Smell Like Honey is like the REM of 92 whereas Blue clearly shows a band willing to experiment and push the boundaries as far as they can go.
Somehow REM are managing to evolve while retaining what made them great in the first place. It's some achievement!