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R.E.M. – Around the Sun 
By Zane Ewton

R.E.M. is in the unenviable position of being a band with past successes and respect that could have been too much for other bands to make it throughout.  Right now they find themselves somewhere between the complete obscurity of their 80’s indie followers and the worldwide mass-marketing machine of U2.  

The band response to this dilemma is to release a mellow and pretty album.  Around the Sun is at times organic, sometimes mechanical.  The songs are built on pretty melodies and focus on Michael Stipe’s vocals and lyrics.

During a political season when even non-political bands are getting involved it would be expected that an election year R.E.M. album would be chock full of politics.  Surprisingly, Around the Sun leans more towards personal feelings and doesn’t clearly allude to any political issues.

That is a very welcome thing, specifically in a time when everyone and their mother are writing political songs.  

Fans of Stipe will be very pleased with Around the Sun, but Peter Buck and Mike Mills appear to be missing, except for the occasional guitar melody or background vocal.

The addition of Q-Tip on “The Outsiders” was not effective, he tends to blend into the song instead of contributing anything worthwhile and the lack of anything upbeat will make you beg for a remake of “Shiny Happy People”.

Around the Sun is the kind of album for rainy days and coffee shop lounging.  While songs like “Leaving New York”, “I Wanted to Be Wrong” and “The Ascent of Man” are very good R.E.M. songs, they start to blend together with the weaker tracks that are all built on the same premise of an electronic base and strumming guitar.

There is just too much gloom and not enough sun on this album.


CD Info 

R.E.M. – Around the Sun
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Rating
 
Tracks:
Leaving New York
Electron Blue
Outsiders, The - (featuring Q-Tip)
Make It All Okay
Final Straw
I Wanted To Be Wrong
Wanderlust
Boy In The Well
Aftermath
High Speed Train
Worst Joke Ever, The
Ascent Of Man, The
Around The Sun
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