R.E.M.: Collapse Into Now (Warner)
This album came out a few weeks ago now but it just came to me in the mail a couple of days ago. I think that the recording label is trying to rekindle interest in this solid new R.E.M. album as it did manage to make the top five in sales in Canada and the USA, while it hit No.1 on the Modern Rock album charts.
The odd thing is that this is the first R.E.M. album ever to hit such lofty heights and yet not yield a hit single.
Collapse Into Now is the band’s first new album since the highly acclaimed Accelerate album of 2008 that enjoyed a modest hit with Supernatural Superserious, but there has been virtually no airwave play from this new release other than on National Public Radio stateside, who have been raving about this 15th studio offering.
There are some finely honed hard rockers here with the U2-ish arena rocker Discoverer and the humorous garage rocker Mine Smell Like Honey.
Patti Smith co-wrote and sings on the dirge rocker Blue where Smith lets loose with some stream of consciousness…poetry?
But ballads seem to be R.E.M.’s main strength now that they are aging rockers and there are plenty on this 12-track CD where my faves are the piano-driven Walk It Back and the sanguine folk rock of Every Day Is Yours To Win.
Songwriters Buck and Stipe even sarcastically take on the young rockers who have supplanted them on the airwaves with the straight up rocker All The Best that is a little more than cranky at the younger generation of emo popsters.
All in all, this is a fairly solid new studio album from R.E.M. who sound like they are trying hard even this long into a legendary career and who would have guessed that these one time mumblers on Murmur and Reckoning would one day provide a lyric sheet.
Panic At The Disco: Vices & Virtues
Las Vegas based Panic At The Disco have been whittled down to the duo of Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith now that guitarist Ryan Ross and bass player Brent Wilson have left to form The Young Veins.
But Panic At The Disco remain a hair brained emo-pop band where you are left shaking your head wondering where they come up with their odd musical choices and off-kilter rock songs. Almost half of the 10 tracks on this strange album shift gears from hard, edgy rock to half-disjointed outros with strings, ambient noises and cafe jazz endings that seemingly have nothing to do with the songs that just preceded them.
There is some accessible dance rock to the lead off track, The Ballad Of Mona Lisa, that has become a minor hit, but the rest of Vices & Virtues is inscrutable.
It seems that when the band has only little or thin ideas they press on the production bloat button for what has been described as the day-glo effect.
Sade: The Ultimate
You could not exactly call British thrush Sade Adu (although she almost never uses her last name) a hurried or prolific artist. She has only released six albums in the last 27 years, but her first two discs gave her a huge career boost with the back-to-back hits Smooth Operator and The Sweetest Taboo in her 1984-85 back-to-back albums.
Last year Sade released Soldier Of Love and it was her first album in a decade and frankly, I thought it would sell poorly due to the extended lay off. But much to my surprise Soldier Of Love hit number one in several countries and it stayed there for a few weeks spawning a hit with the title track.
Now Sade has released this superb two-CD, 30-track collection that has all her hits and gives a good perspective on her popularity where Sade has proven to be a major crossover artist. This anthology holds her smooth jazz hit Babyfather, her hot R&B/hip hop hit The Moon And The Sky (included here with a remix by Jay-Z who adds a lengthy rap), her adult contemporary smashes Smooth Operator and The Sweetest Taboo, as well as her dance music/club play staple Hang On To Your Love.
What makes this double disc even more valuable is the four new songs, highlighted by the contemporary dance styled song Love Is Found that foils Sade’s sultry voice with an edgy, textured synth line (making this one of Sade’s best songs ever, to my ears).
The songs jump around chronologically which isn’t bothersome given Sade’s simple yet effective style while another dance club option on The Ultimate Collection could be the Neptunes’ hip hop remix of By Your Side.
A thorough anthology from three-time Grammy winner Ms. Adu and well worth the price of a two-CD set.
The Promise DVD
This DVD carries a 2010 and a 2011 issue date on the back of the liner, so I am wondering if this award-winning documentary has added content for re-release as there is a subtitle: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town.
I have seen that ninety-minute film on PBS cable TV but there has been a few songs added to this DVD from the acclaimed 1978 album, along with a cool Yule cover of Blue Christmas.
There is also an added feature that reads Bruce Springsteen: A Conversation With His Fans and this I have not seen on the small screen.
Anyway, this video clocks in at almost two and a half hours so big ‘Broooooooose The Boss’ fans may want to take note as this too came in the mail only a few days ago.