Picks and Pans Review: R.E.M.

UPDATED 04/07/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/07/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT

Accelerate |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

ALT-ROCK

"I've got to fall in another direction/ Accelerate!" sings Michael Stipe on the bracing, buzzing title track of R.E.M.'s 14th studio album. After forgetting how to rock following the departure of drummer Bill Berry in 1997, the trio cranks it up on Accelerate, their most amped effort since 1994's Monster. The result is simply the best R.E.M. disc since 1992's classic Automatic for the People. Accelerate hits the ground running with the opening assault, "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," as Stipe tears into his vocal with renewed vigor. You can just imagine him thrashing about to this one onstage. Even better are "Supernatural Superserious," the chugging, instantly catchy first single, and the soul-deep "Hollow Man," both of which stand up to about anything in the band's catalogue. Lean and mean, Accelerate clocks in at less than 35 minutes, its 11 cuts racing by so fast you can't wait to play it again.

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