All I can say is wow.

R.E.M is back. Their new album Accelerate is damn-near fantastic. Easily the best album they've released since Monster back in 1994 and possibly as good as some of their even better earlier stuff. Can this band really be 30-years old?

I never thought I'd buy another R.E.M album after the disaster that was Up -- and I haven't until now -- but Accelerate has a 4.5 star average rating on iTunes from well over a hundred user reviews, and when I saw that I had to give in.

I'm not big on giving song-by-song blows because I'm a pretty poor music critic. I can't describe much at all, I only know what I like. And I like this. Some of the songs definitely remind me of the harder (relatively speaking, of course...) stuff from Monster and Automatic for the People, but there's definitely shades of Life's Rich Pageant and Out of Time on here as well. Gone is the whiny fluff from the previous albums; dispatched is the techy-experimental stuff they dabbled in between Monster and Up and in their place is classic early-to-mid 90's R.E.M.

The only thing marring this otherwise fantastic discovery is that I made the mistake of downloading it from iTunes. The lousy 128k bit-rate sounds like crap and it's not available via iTunes Plus. I should have bought the disc when I saw it in Starbucks tonight. After all, it would have been a nice addition to my collection of 14 other R.E.M albums. I might have to go back and buy the album after all, at least that way I can rip it to to my iPod at a higher bit rate so it doesn't sound as tinny.

But that's all besides the point. If you've ever liked R.E.M, particularly back in the 90's, then you have to pick this up. At the very least, give the songs "Accelerate", "Hollow Man", and "Living Well is the Best Revenge" a listen for a feel of the album. I think you'll like it.

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