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Around the Sun


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R.E.M. once suggested they would not continue as a group if one of its original members decided to quit. Health concerns and other passions led drummer Bill Berry to leave his drummer seat, but the remaining members sought to fulfill their musical destiny with quieter results. They’d never been a particularly loud or heavy rock band, so the shift towards reflective ballads and songs longer on texture than groove doesn’t sound like anything more than an older band maturing into its advanced, wiser ways. R.E.M. rarely composed with grand concepts in mind. The band’s strength has been the small, illuminating moment where the instruments coalesce into a dream-like weave as they do here as the title track sweetly resolves. “The Outsiders,” with a guest spot from rapper Q-Tip, adds a touch of syncopated rhythm, however, it’s the hazy shuffle of “Leaving New York,” the piano-led “Make It All OK” and the mild pop shimmer of “Aftermath” and “Wander Lust” that represent the band’s usual abilities if not the full strength of its usual inspirations.

Customer Reviews

An REM album, through and through

This is an outstanding record, but unless you're an REM fan—one who liked Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, and Lifes' Rich Pageant, rather than just Green, Out of Time, Automatic for the People, and Monster—you won't appreciate this album AS AN REM ALBUM. It's a nice fit with the rest of their catalog, but it doesn't sound like "Losing My Religion." Each REM album brings a new twist. Sometimes it's a new instrument (like harmonicas, accordians, mandolins, etc.), sometimes it's a new direction (jangly-pop to strumming-on-stools to rock-and-roll). Around the Sun brings both. Since the departure of drummer Bill Berry, REM has moved more and more toward electronic sounds, without turning into Dance or Electronica. They're still Rock and Roll, but different. Another progression from early REM is Michael Stipe's lyrics. As he's gotten older, he's gotten clearer (both in meaning and enunciation). Someone who used to mumble that "Your love/Is a two-headed cow," has gotten much more confident and accessible. Unfortunately, the clarity comes at the expense of magic, and sometimes at the expense of beauty. When not measured against the REM catalog, this is a great album. But considering everything else they've done this one only rates as good. There are a few stand-alone great songs, such as Leaving New York, Final Straw, and my favorite, Aftermath, but mostly the record belongs together, sort of a tribute to failures and successes everybody faces. The range of styles can be a little distracting if you're used to a more cohesive REM album (Monster or New Adventures in HiFi), but it's still better than most of the albums that bands put out after they've had commercial success and become musicians rather than just rockstars. REM's trademarks are still present, though. The blend of styles is there. The incredible harmonies are there. The layers of rythym are there, and there's even some jangling guitar! If you're an REM fan, you'll like this one. There's also a good chance you'll like it if you've never listened to REM, but if you only know them and love them from the radio, start with a different album.

Around The Sun

Not among R.E.M.'s best albums, but it is very good. Gentler than their earlier albums such as Document, Murmurs, or Life’s Rich Pageant. Leaving New York has a very wonderful tune, as well as lyrics. The Outsiders is another fantastic song on this album, except for the bizarre rap at the end (when I saw them live, Michael rapped that part, it was very funny). The title song, Around the Sun is very nice easy listening, I think it may have a deep meaning, but with R.E.M. its hard to tell. While this album lacks the power of their first albums, it is definitely worth purchasing, whether you are a hardcore R.E.M. fan or not.

Different Strokes for Folks

Let us not forget that we all have different opinions, even if we all claim to be "R.E.M. fans." Some reviewers mention "Radio Free Europe" as an amazing example of where R.E.M. was and needs to return to, but I can hardly sit through <Murmur> these days. I find it a dated record with no soul: Stipe barely sings, has no spirit; and it's just not all that great (though the songwriting is great, but the songs don't sustain time like Paul Simon's, let's be honest). The only R.E.M. record I can't stand is <Monster> (although "W.T.F. Kenneth" is still a classic, in my humble opinion). At the time, I saw <Out of Time>, <Automatic>, and <Monster> signaling R.E.M.'s downfall, but then <New Adventures>, <Up>, and <Reveal> proved to be so much stronger in my opinion, and indeed contained some of my favorite all-time tracks, even if there was more filler material than records past. I'm not going to say that this is the best record ever, but I am tired of crybabies who want to see R.E.M. act like college drop-outs again, when they are now 30-year veterans of their craft. Open your mind (and heart) just a little bit. If you haven't outgrown <Murmur>, then there's not much new music that you'll like anyway, so what is the point in complaining? Time will not wait for you, friends.


Formed: 1980 in Athens, GA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

R.E.M. marked the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock. When their first single, "Radio Free Europe," was released in 1981, it sparked a back-to-the-garage movement in the American underground. While there were a number of hardcore and punk bands in the U.S. during the early '80s, R.E.M. brought guitar pop back into the underground lexicon. Combining ringing guitar hooks with mumbled, cryptic lyrics and a D.I.Y. aesthetic borrowed from post-punk, the band simultaneously sounded traditional...
Full Bio

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