The Week in Music: R.E.M.’s Make-Up Sex? Moby Is–Gasp!–Manhattan; White and the Black Keys

R.E.M. releases its 14th album, Accelerate, today. According to most accounts, it’s a return to their Athens, Ga. roots. Spin writes rather breathlessly, “They haven’t sounded this surprised with themselves since 1998’s Up, haven’t made an album this consistent since 1992’s Automatic for the People, and haven’t redlined so engagingly since 1986’s Life’s Rich Pageant.” The emerging storyline is that like any long-lasting marriage, R.E.M. is surfacing from the depths of a dark period, one in which they admittedly did not talk to one another, and Accelerate is the make-up sex—fast, passionate, “surprising,” and perhaps the best ever, because of it. The relief—and ecstasy—is palpable in the music and the reviews. “The best thing about Accelerate,” writes David Fricke in Rolling Stone, “is that R.E.M. sound whole again … [they’re] complete in their bond and purpose.” You may now kiss the bride!


A sad but true fact is that no musician or artist in recent memory has mirrored, at least on the surface, the city’s fortunes and rhythms over the last 20 years quite like Moby. Just think of it: radical, controversial, and into techno in the early ’90’s, commercial and popular toward the end of the decade and into the next, and now all he does is hang out and gab with rich people. So what does it mean for Moby that Madonna recently observed that the city had lost its edge? Check out Gabe Boylan’s review of Moby’s latest album, Last Night.


When you hear that Van Morrison has a new album, it’s easy to dismiss. What’s this, like no. 38? No matter how many albums the Irishman makes, he’ll always be best known for his third, Moondance. But at 62, he’s still has something to say with Keep It Simple and he still has an audience. In an interview, Morrison confesses that the title track is a prayer, a hope that “we can get back to something simple, otherwise, we’re screwed.” Listen here and you’ll find that Morrison has clearly followed his own advice.


The last we heard from “slick-pop aficionados” the Apples in Stereo—or at least an apple in stereo?—Robert Schneider was performing “Stephen Stephen,” a tribute to Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report (below). If you liked what you heard, you’re in luck. Today marks the arrival of Electronic Projects for Musicians, a collection of b-sides and rarities from the band’s 15-plus years together and “Stephen Stephen,” plus a bunch of other great stuff from the Elephant 6 veteran, made the cut.


The Black Keys, comprised of two dudes from Akron, Ohio, are just like the White Stripes, but without the gimmickry or the intrigue or the major record deal or, presumably, the sexual tension. They play “raw blues-rock” with no frills. It’s surprisingly refreshing. One can only hope for more of the same on Attack & Release, their fifth album.

The Week in Music: R.E.M.’s Make-Up Sex? Moby Is–Gasp!–Manhattan; White and the Black Keys