Around The Sun, R.E.M.?s first new studio album since 2001's gold Reveal, is as emotional and ulti- mately uplifting as its "Leaving New York" single. With a renewed band dynamic and songs influenced by world events, Aroun... more »d The Sun surprises and satisfies and is both political and poignant. Says Michael Stipe: "Even the most depressing R.E.M.song is going to have a glimmer of hope." For fans of one of rock's most acclaimed bands, hope revolves around R.E.M.« less
Around The Sun, R.E.M.?s first new studio album since 2001's gold Reveal, is as emotional and ulti- mately uplifting as its "Leaving New York" single. With a renewed band dynamic and songs influenced by world events, Around The Sun surprises and satisfies and is both political and poignant. Says Michael Stipe: "Even the most depressing R.E.M.song is going to have a glimmer of hope." For fans of one of rock's most acclaimed bands, hope revolves around R.E.M.
"REM have made inconsistent albums before. No band is perfect. 'Monster' was a slightly tounge-in-cheek attempt at a rock album that didn't quite work. 'Up' was an attempt to make art pop that didn't quite work. Some old-time fans think the pop direction of 'Green' and 'Out of Time' didn't work. But in each case it was clear what REM were trying to do, and even if you didn't like those albums, you had to respect REM for taking risks and trying new things. Sad to say, that's not the case with 'Around the Sun'. Unless their intention was to make a very slick, safe, mediocre album, I find it hard to understand what they were trying to do here. Were they trying to make a self-consciously serious album and just dressed it up too much? Or were they going for a radio-friendly adult rock album but made it too somber? I can't tell.
'Around the Sun' largely continues the trend of their last two albums, so could be seen in many ways as 'Up Part 3'. But 'Up' and 'Reveal', for all their flaws, did contain some variety, a couple of strong songs, and some raw emotion peeking out from within. Here, the formula is taken to the extreme; the production is so overwhelming and the songs so subdued and somber that the album is almost lifeless. In some ways, it's almost a Michael Stipe solo effort, since the electronics and keyboards are mixed right up front, leaving Mike Mills and Peter Buck very marginalised. But Stipe doesn't really contribute much either; his lyrics are actually fairly bland. At times, they hint at something deeper, whether personal or political, but the overbearing production smothers whatever message Stipe is trying to get out.
A lack of sonic variation really hurts the album, with too many songs floating by and blending into each other. It certainly doesn't help that the only two times the album perks up are 'Final Straw', an anti-war song that was already a bit dated by late 2004, and 'Wanderlust', which sounds like a B-grade Oasis. My personal favourite is 'Electron Blue', which at least has a strong hook in the chorus, but even this sounds like Stipe + ProTools, not like the work of a proper band.
Maybe this might have worked better as a Stipe solo project, but as an REM album it stands as one of their weakest."
Around the Sun
Bjorn Viberg | European Union | 06/05/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Around the Sun being REM's 13th album and their 2004 release is an ok album and it was met with lukewarm reviews by the critics. Allmusic give it 2 stars and Rolling Stone Magazine give it 3 stars. The album spawned four singles. These being "Leaving New York", "Electron Blue", "Wanderlust" and "Aftermath". The album peaked at #13 on the Billboard 200. The booklet is quite massive with all the lyrics included and on the back of the lyrics has a massive poster. 3/5."
Automatic Pilot For The People!
Aussie Deano | Melbourne, Australia | 03/31/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love R.E.M. I have all their albums, 30 odd singles & EP's and a heap of boots. I enjoyed most of the mellowed out Up & Reveal but Around The Sun, a third laid back album in succession, is too much of the same thing. I was wondering whether they had become too content with their lot. I need not have worried, these guys realised the errors in their ways not long after this release and returned with the vibrant, excellent Accelerate in 2008, and not a Dean Martin or Great Crooners cover album. Let's hope each future studio release is out there and challenging from now on."
YEARS LATER, IT'S NOT SO BAD AFTERALL
Steven C. Miller | Pittsburgh, PA | 04/20/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ya know, after a long absence from Around the Sun, I finally came back to it the other day, and, suprisingly, it wasn't as bad as I remembered it to be years ago. While it does have it weak spots (Make It All Okay and Wanderlust are just bland and dull, IMO), it also has some of what I believe to be R.E.M.'s finest moments (Leaving New York, Boy in the Well, Hi-Speed Train, I Wanted to Be Wrong) I also think The Outsiders, Aftermath and The Worst Joke Ever could have been a bit better but they both still have some fine lyrically moments to save some of their musical limpness.
I do know Peter Buck has pretty much disowned this record completely but I think Michael Stipe is correct that the songs themselves are fine but the production just could have been a bit stronger. I'd like to hear Mike Mills' opinion of this record these days. I bet he'd fine some gems on it now as well.
Anyway, ATS is certainly NOT an R.E.M. starting point by any means. Maybe it will remain a record for diehards only in the years to come. Let's remember, some of the best bands have records that are considered low points (Dirty Work by the Rolling Stones, Pop by U2) so ATS has been pretty good company, I think."
Remarkable R.E.M. moments
Jorge Reyes | Quebec, QC | 09/30/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this CD a month ago. I noticed that it came out in 2004 a very sad year in my life. Sometimes when I listen to it I wonder how it performed back in those days: what songs were played in the radio and how often, which videos were shown in MTV...
I probably walked into one or two record stores, and while browsing the CDs I ignored this album or just overlooked it. (In fact, in 2004 I didn't care much for R.E.M. and significant events were taking place in my life).
Now that I listen to this album, very personal memories from 2004 have resurfaced. Two songs are worth mentioning: "Make it All Okay" and "Final Straw". "Leaving New York" is fine but not my favourite. While I'm not an R.E.M. expert 'Final Straw' has to be among the finest the band has ever composed.
I don't think this album deserves the press it's been getting from commentators and reviewers. I really don't care what 'Around the Sun' represents in R.E.M. career, I just like most of its songs and two of them are among my all-time best."