There has only ever really be one bad REM album, and that was the last, Around The Sun. It was so unremittingly awful that many long-time fans wondered what had happened to one of the most essential rock bands of the past 20 years. So, the news that a new guitar-biased album captured a newly fired-up REM was greeted with real fervour. Accelerate is a great REM album - it's not Life's Rich Pageant or Document, but this stands comparison with New Adventures, or Automatic for the People. Gone is the preachiness and tossed-off rehashes, and regained is the Stipe angry intensity and slightly-ahead-of-the-beat compulsive obsessive rhythm - in many places, this could be Bob Mould's Sugar. Unlike Monster, the guitars are nice and jangly - it seems like Peter Buck wrested control of the band back again, made them care and made sure there were songs before they got to the (Irish) studio.
Repeated listening adds dimensions to those songs that at first seem ordinary - this is a rock album (there's no radio-friendly Everybody Hurts on this one), but it is one that burns with intelligence. It would be wrong to criticise a band for not hitting a Life's Rich Pageant high water mark - only a couple of bands ever have matched it - there are four or five great songs on here, 4 or 5 very good ones. Rather than waiting for a return to form, we simply needed to view Around The Sun as an aberration, a temporary blip in a great band's form.