It's hard to believe, but R.E.M. has now been making music for over thirty years. Collapse into Now, their latest album, finds the Athens, Georgia trio of Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, and Peter Buck slightly aimless.

While 2008's Accelerate had the band going for loud rock, Collapse into Now feels like the band is searching for something. There's the overwrought yearning of "Oh My Heart," the arrogance of... someone... on "Mine Smell Like Honey," the strangeness of "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" and the semi-spoken word finale of "Blue."

Unfortunately, Collapse into Now never quite comes together, even with appearances by Eddie Vedder and Patti Smith. There are some good songs here -- "UBerlin" stands out -- but none really stand out or bring the album together. Perhaps the band is feeling its age, or maybe they wanted to avoid repeating the formula from their last album; the latter is a worthy goal, if not a worthy result. Collapse into Now isn't a bad album per se, but it a weaker entry into the R.E.M. body of work.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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