R.E.M.

Accelerate (Warner Bros.)

Phases & Stages

R.E.M.

Accelerate (Warner Bros.)

Brooding disaffection about these Accelerate-d end-times peaks on "Until the Day Is Done," introduced in the lyrics accompanying R.E.M.'s 14th album with Sinclair Lewis' co-opted anti-Bush sloganeering. Strangling jangle trademarks the Athens, Ga., trio's opening triptych, sealed by "Supernatural Superserious," first cousin to Automatic for the People smash "Man on the Moon." Where the previous indelible minored in ill-fated loon Andy Kaufman, here Harry Houdini plucks the rabbit out of Michael Stipe's skullcap – protection from Peter Buck's raw nerve-endings guitar. Accelerate isn't Lifes Rich Pageant, however. The moody flair of "Houston" and buzzing desperation that suffocates the title cut better reflect the group's musical temperament. As 34 minutes advance, songs get longer and less interesting ("Sing for the Submarine"), but "Horse to Water" stomps, and "I'm Gonna DJ" ("at the end of the world") doesn't decelerate. This time, really, "It's the End of the World as We Know It," only nobody feels fine.

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