The press for Accelerate centers on Michael Stipe's remark that the band became a "three-legged-dog" after the departure of drummer, Bill Berry. Their recorded output had become seemingly uninspired as the band searched for a new balance. The truth is, R.E.M. records became a 50/50 proposition before Berry's exit. You have to go back to 1992’s Automatic for the People, to find a truly great R.E.M. album. Both Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi, were awkward rock records that only half-deliver on the band’s legacy. And similar criticism can be laid on the mellow approach of all three post-Berry albums, Up, Reveal and Around the Sun.
Accelerate does however, get back to basics — it clocks in at just under 35 minutes. Stipe's voice is energized and Peter Buck comes close to revisiting the Rickenbacker tone that defined the band’s early years. Producer Jacknife Lee does a decent job capturing a rock band in the studio. Accelerate may lean a bit on the self-conscious 90s punch, but so did his production on the last U2 record How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb and that turned out just fine.
As far as the songs go, it's another mixed bag. There's plenty to like in “Man-Sized Wreath,” “Supernatural Superserious” and “Houston,” which all exhibit classic R.E.M. But much of the record goes by in a "yeah, that was ok" fashion, not quite delivering on its promise. We can't expect the band to grow a new appendage, and this is a nice (if somewhat underwhelming) addition to their catalog. Yet ultimately, we're left waiting for them to deliver on the pledge of a "great new record".