label: warner bros.
our score: 4.0 out of 5.0
(from their previous selves)
Berry is gone. Scott Litt is not producing. REM has changed. The
change is nothing drastic in the way of their sound, but instead
it is in the way of emotion. The new album is much more introspective
than some of their earlier works; not that the earlier ones lacked
depth, but this one seethes feeling through the seams.
the poor sales and reviews of New Adventures in Hi-Fi (I
actually love it) as well as the loss of Bill Berry after the
brain aneurysm during their Monster tour (among other reasons),
it was unknown whether REM would continue to make quality music.
The band has been the same group of people since the early 80s,
with such epitomes of music as Fables of the Reconstruction,
Document, Green, Out of Time, Automatic for the People, and
Monster. Much like U2, the band has become a staple of
music culture. Recently the band has been dissed for their changes
in style. Hard-core fans were distraught by the rock sound on
Monster - fans of their pop sound were disappointed by
their experimentation on New Adventures... Personally I
am impressed by the way they have grown through the years. I love
all of their albums and Up is no different.
a major change in REM's composure, but I am not going to focus
much on this. Instead you are going to hear why this album is
good, regardless of anything anyone else tells you. There is a
definite change in mood with the new disc, many of the tracks
feature a spacy, if not dreamlike, style. The lyrics have become
somewhat cryptic. Stipe has put a lot of thought into the lyrics
on this disc, tackling topics such as technology, industry, religion,
and other so-called advancements of the human species.
the opening track, "Airportman," we are immediately
made aware of the changes on this disc as compared to earlier
works. The entire musical composition has a more galactic feel,
as something you would expect to hear a few years in the future.
Stipe's voice is droning and monotonous, much like style The Edge
used in "Numb" off U2's Zooropa. This no strike
against Stipe, for the style is perfect for getting the mood of
the song across. In fact, throughout the album Stipe sticks toward
a sound of inner lamentation.
most upbeat track on the disc is "Lotus" which features
a harder guitar crunch, like what would be found on Monster.
However, instead of making this a rock track it becomes more of
an electronic sound with the continual repitition of the guitar
riff, backed by almost-too-perfect drum beats and sample loops.
The addition of a strings section contrasts this sound, setting
a mood of confusion. We do not know if the band is trying to go
with or against technology. Stipe gets down hardcore on the vocals,
showing fits of anger in places, both at himself and society.
The song bashes our technological and physical advances over time,
but rather than blaming society, Stipe claims the problem to be
due to himself as well. "I ate the lotus / say haven't you
noticed?" The anit-advancement feeling is most present in
"wash away my ugly sins / opposing thumb / dorsal fin / that
monkey died for my grin"
rest of the CD is excellent, always much more contemplative than
was evident in the earlier offerings. My personal favorite on
the disc is "At My Most Beautiful," which is basically
a love song. No, there is not much of a hidden meaning here -
instead Stipe pours out emotion and the little nuances of the
things we do when in love. The piano riff is catchy and enchanting,
totally soothing me when I need it. This is definitely a candidate
as a future single, and will most likely be a big prom hit. The
first single, "Daysleeper," is just what it sounds like,
a great song. The acoustic guitars in this song are present throughout
much of the CD, and it is a good example of the general tempo
and emotionality found therein.
continues to pump out quality work. They have been doing it for
almost two decades now, and even with the loss of a beloved member,
they continue to amaze me. Up is definitely one of the
highlight albums of the year. Most critics agree with me on this,
although as far as I can tell, the CD is not doing too well in
stores. Help out these hometown boys from Athens, GA. They deserve
it, and besides, you will pick up an excellent piece of artistry
along the way.