Remcrop MOJO spies at two nights of R.E.M.’s current run of live rehearsals at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre have returned full of praise for the band’s rediscovery of rock, guitars, vocal harmonies and, most importantly, good songs.

Click MORE button for new song news, banter… and surprises!

“THIS IS NOT A SHOW” said the slogan projected behind the stage, but these were more, not less than shows.

The idea was that R.E.M. test new songs in front of friends over five nights before retreating to producer Garrett “Jacknife” Lee’s Dublin studio to record an 14th full studio album. The result was an informal vibe and uninhibited music making, the new songs largely based on Peter Buck’s Rickenbacker and sparkling with Stipe/Mills vocal harmonies. “We are R.E.M.,” announced Stipe on the Wednesday night, “and this is what we do when you’re not looking.”

MOJO heard at least five bona fide future classics. The churning psych-rock of Mr Richards (“Pay attention! Pay attention!” keened Stipe) stood out. Disguised had to be started twice on the Wednesday – Mills and Buck appeared to disagree as to whose fault it was – before revealing itself as a marvellously melodic glam rock animal. Until The Day Is Done takes a folk turn into Automatic For The People territory, and Horse To Water may be the band‘s most intense assault since Monster’s Circus Envy. MOJO’s spies were at loggerheads over On The Fly – what a Wednesday viewer thought brooding and magnificent in a Country Feedback vein was described on the strength of Thursday’s performance as tedious and overlong, with even Buck losing interest towards the end.

Other new songs included Living Well, Middle Distance, Houston, Man Sized Wreath (about “Lillian Hellman giving Dashiell Hammett a blowjob with a mouthful of snow”, apparently) and Accelerate.

The so-called “olive branch” to an audience otherwise treated as (albeit very willing) guinea pigs was the slew of fanbait songs from the back catalogue. Wednesday night [setlist below] saw particularly fine versions of Harbourcoat, Second Guessing, These Days, 1,000,000, Wolves, Lower and West Of The Fields, and the sense that this was R.E.M. putting the lacklustre Around The Sun behind them and reconnecting with what has made them great was palpable.

After the shows, a relaxed Buck mingled, revealing his dissatisfaction with Around The Sun (the headline of MOJO’s album review “Do Go Back To Rockville” appears to have been taken to heart) and his approval of the band’s new methodology. A smattering of celebrity gladhanders – Robyn Hitchcock, Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody – seemed to agree.

R.E.M. are a guitar band again. Thank ye gods for that.


For more on R.E.M.’s five-night stand, and see some great pictures, visit remhq.com/news.

Posted by Danny Eccleston at 01:50PM | Categories: Live, News, Reviews


good news indeed.but don't be too harsh with "around the sun".it's pretty full of good songs too

Posted by: David Huret | 9 Jul 2007 12:40:29

I think people want REM to sound like REM again. Whatever happened between Green and now is anyones guess. Maybe there were some good songs, but they just were not a collective sound.

Posted by: Mark | 12 Jul 2007 21:23:47

I thought the only thing wrong with Around The Sun was that it was a lot different from all of their previous albums, meaning it was more new age and less of their own style.

Posted by: Alex | 26 Jul 2007 19:59:16

Yeah - Around The Sun wasn't a great record, but the songs were actually very good - by that I mean a bit of a limp album which sounded a 1000 times better live - blame the poor production - witness Glasgow Green gig June 2005. I for one can't wait to hear the new album and look forward to a full tour next year - T in the Park pleeease!


Posted by: Jim Macdonald | 26 Jul 2007 22:25:50

I like most of Around the Sun.

For the editor you got the story wrong about Lillian Hellman. She had a mouth full of Smoke. Because he said she was a smoker from the cradle to the grave. That was Stipe's story which was related to Harborcoat, He didn't say that was what Man Size Wreath is about. With Michael you really need to listen closely.
My only complaint, I hate misquotes and as Michael Stipe has said on a televison interview he is misquoted all the time.

Posted by: Denise | 27 Jul 2007 04:32:06

I don't think it's fair to say Around the Sun was "lacklustre". It has some great moments and great songs. It's a departure from the "traditional" R.E.M. sound, but they've done this before - most notably with Monster, which seems to be very highly-regarded (although not my favourite R.E.M. album), and also with Up. I find Around the Sun carries a fairly consisten theme as well, feeling like mortality in a way. There are some songs I can do without, but most of the album is great in my opinion.

Posted by: Sean | 28 Jul 2007 12:27:19

Although most fans of the band want to remember them in there " not mainstream years " we all have to move on and i don't agree with the comments relating to around the sun been a naff album. It's a welcoming change into modern directions and lyrically sound. it's better to try different things than to sing or sound the same on albums or we will get classed as an american oasis !!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Toff | 28 Jul 2007 15:52:37

please lets have more adventures in hi fi . just brilliant

Posted by: mark gittins | 29 Jul 2007 11:04:04

I Agree New Adventures is a fantastic album,some more please too

Posted by: Steve | 30 Jul 2007 09:18:37

I agree that the songs from around the sun came across much better live. You get the impression that those songs just had too many layers of sound added in the studio but seemed to have more of an edge when stripped down. Having said that, they did seem back on real form in Dublin and the new songs sounded great. I just hope they can keep some of that Spontaneity in the recordings. This is what made New adventures one of their greatest albums in my opinion.

Posted by: Johnny B | 30 Jul 2007 13:01:19

Peter Buck is a rocker, always has been. He is finally shaking off the cobwebs and getting the Rick ready for a guitar assault now that the kids are older.

For the record, I enjoy "Around the Sun." The nice thing about R.E.M. is that they have something for every type of mood and this album is just part of their rock and roll buffet. They have put out enough music that you can take or leave whatever doesn't float your boat. At least they are willing to experiment. Looking forward to the new stuff though!

Posted by: Mark Boudreau | 30 Jul 2007 13:34:31

Around the Sun is awful, I hate it, it makes me soooooooooo angry. Those damn awful wandering acoustic intros, JMS sounding like he'd never heard the songs before entering the studio (and who can blame him?), the one that sounds like Memories or whatever it is, ggrrrr. No, it's not supposed to SOUND like Chronic Town or Reckoning or New Adventures, but it's supposed to FEEL like them. They should have just done Leaving NY and Boy in the Well as a fan club 7" and left it at that.

If reports of their death have been exaggerated, I'm glad. I miss them.

Posted by: Patrick | 2 Aug 2007 14:04:04

I think that each REM album achieves moments (or entire album's worth) of transcendent musical genius... that is, until ATS.

To me ATS was their first genuinely bad album. Weak songs, melodies, and overly shiny and crisp modern production. And its pace is just so mopey and boring. I can't imagine thinking that is one of their better albums, unless you have virtually no knowledge of their back catalogue. It's like lauding Steel Wheels over Exile.

A return to form is long overdue (not to them sounding like their old records but to some inspired musical creativity)... and some energetic Buckenbacker riffage as well. I'm holding out hope that this new album will take them there. Otherwise maybe it's time to end it... but GOD - I hope it doesnt come to that.

Posted by: Grady | 2 Aug 2007 21:23:52

I've only listened to Around the Sun a handful of times. I've tried to give it a chance by leaving it for months before coming back to it, but I've concluded it's my least favourite REM album ever.
There's one song where Stipe sounds wilfully off key at times. There's the dubious '..when London falls' lyric which just makes me angry.

And were REM actually booed at Live 8 when they played a song off ARS? Speaks volumes really.

Having been a fan since the early 80s, I'm hoping the next album gets them back on track.

Posted by: Stephen | 8 Oct 2007 10:55:06