Do you remember R.E.M.’s previous album Up? If you answered yes, give yourself a biscuit — I admire someone who could stay awake for that album.
Like a good manager, Bertis Downs put a really good pre-release spin on Up, evoking the magic words “Automatic for the People” to get people’s attention. (Me? Automatic for the People was all right, but it’s not the ground-breaking album for which critics wet themselves.)
When Downs described Reveal as “lush” in this most recent round of pre-release hype, it almost served as a warning for everyone who had to overdose on caffiene to get through Up.
So. Reveal? Any good?
Yes. Thank your personal dieties, but yes, it’s good.
And it doesn’t require multiple listens — hell, even very attentive listens — for Reveal to grab hold.
All the sonic experiments that informed Up are still around, but this time, they serve as garnish, not centerpiece, to the songs.
R.E.M. have gone back to writing hooks. Michael Stipe has gone back to singing melodies. Peter Buck even straps on a guitar from time to time, even making it sound jangly.
But Downs was right — this album is quite lush. Thick strings, layers of harmony, a glockenspiel here and there — Reveal sounds like the aural equivalent of some really elaborate bedding displays at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Very cozy. Very warm.
Any stand-out tracks? Not really. Or at least not on the level of, say, “Nightswimming” or “Electrolite”.
But some do come close. “All the Way to Reno (You’re Going to Be a Star)” will leave you singing the core line of the chorus. Same thing applies to “I’ll Take the Rain”.
“I’ve Been High” sounds like the cousin to “Everybody Hurts,” and the album’s first single, “Imitation of Life”, is a great return to the band’s more uptempo milleu.
So yes. It’s safe to like R.E.M. again. Get Reveal, and leave the stimulants behind.