R.E.M - Uberlin
Bill Cummings 28/02/2011
Oh R.E.M why have thy forsaken me? In the 80s you chewed up the Amercian heartlands defining the sound of alternative music as much as the the Pixies and Husker Du. On stage they were magnetic, The classic Byrdsian jangle of Peter Buck, the frenetic basslines of Mike Mills, Michael Stipe the singer who mumbled in mysterious tongues under a unfeasibly curly fringe and a drummer in one Bill Berry who was not only the best sticks man on the planet but actually penned some of your biggest and best melodies! And In the 90s you proved that you could write great songs across albums like ('Green', 'Out Of Time' 'Automatic…') and bestride stadiums in the process, you proved that not all bands in their 40s just faded into commercial irrelevance of autopilot. And then something happened guys, Bill left, you became nervous, and inconsistent. Now after two hideously lacklustre albums you return with yet another single 'UBERLIN' this March and sadly its yet another signal of your fading powers, another limp acoustic strut around the subway that you've walked through so many times before. The press release will make hideously grand claims about UBERLIN being 'a great song inspired by the industrial Berlin in the vein of classics like Bowie's Heroes and Iggy Pop's 'Passenger'.'
In reality 'UBERLIN' is yet another R.E.M retread, the sound of a sliding 'Man on the Moon' verse progression, being taken for a ride by Electrolite-esque acoustic pickings of Mr Buck. The lyrics are populated by a series of worn out Stipeisms so despite his still resonating tone, we get his trade mark 'Heys' and references to 'flying' and 'stars', platitudes borrowed from the back of their own back catalogue and a self help book ('I know what I am chasing/I know that this is changing me') and after a barely noticeable chorus its all over, having wound up at the start line again. UBERLIN is another last gasp from a once great band and proof if this R.E.M fan needed it that the 'return to form' reviews of their forthcoming new album "Collapse Into Now"' may be based more on hope than reality. But we shall see? In the meantime I raise a glass to the dying embers of a once era defining band and urge you all to pass over this forgettable three minutes in exchange for investing time in any of their albums Pre-Monster, and remember what it was like to have R.E.M on top form.