R.E.M, like I said in my last review of theirs, are not the young guns they used to be in the same way Morrissey is. These men have aged. But, unlike Morrissey, R.E.M aren't going to let that get in their way. Reveal is not your average album. It was quietly released by a band that can no longer compete in the musical marketplace using image or controversy to sell records, even if they wanted too. In someway, this should apply to all music making groups, as if Reveal was not a good record I guarantee it would have flopped where others would still triumph. The new single "All The Way To Reno (Your Gonna Be A Star)" is representative of everything that the band have to offer now. Quiet understated brilliance like that of an ageing chess player; a little slower, without ego or offensiveness but full of talent that the young can only dream of pursuing.
The song didn't hit me at first. It just slid off as I put the notion of a classic R.E.M album this century to bed. I wasn't that interested to be honest. Reveal got a simple response of "all round ok" from everyone and so I was in no rush to listen to anything new by them. Then the stories came through slowly about how this album had a little more to it, like a pretty chest keeping beautiful stones hidden from your first view. I listened to this track again. It genuinely moved me. Stipe is not a man to take things simply as songs about the dying and the loneliness of leading the world have proved. But this is a new era for the band. Michael is now "out" and no one cared (if anything they loved him more), they are in their twilight where they need prove nothing to no one and they seem to be enjoying it. In this frame of mine they have produced what I would call the Happiest of their career. It should be used in programmes about lost boys finding their mothers and old men playing tennis shaking hands, twitching their moustaches with their worn out grins. It's ever optimistic lilt is as free as The Byrds, and its "you know who you are…" chorus is the sort of thing everyone from Thom Yorke downwards have admitted to almost make them cry. No one makes music this happy anymore, not even the dippy retro-er's Cosmic Rough Riders (see the review) could even dream of cramming a smile as big as this into a song. Make this the song that takes you back into happiness.
9Joss Albert's Score