Friday, April 18, 2008

Don't Believe The Hype

Anyone catch the Rolling Stone review that argues Accelerate is "one of the best records R.E.M. have ever made"? Bill Wyman wrote an interesting piece that gets to the root of why many musically minded people have tuned out reviews from the rock establishment's publication of choice. Using that statement as a jumping off point Wyman goes through the past decade or so of the magazine's REM album reviews and discovers that as far back as Up, the album where the public first demonstrated they had lost interest in the band, each release has been praised by Rolling Stone as an improvement on their recent output. Different writers opine on each album but the similarity is striking giving the impression that there is a standard "late period REM album" review expected by the editorial staff. While the uniformity of sentiment may simply come from the shortcomings that come with deadlines and the lack of time to differentiate "sort of sounds like that album that was really good" from "where did the memorable songs go" I suspect the source of this groupthink comes from the canonical glow cast over all of REM's work by their couple of albums that are considered among the pinnacles of the American underground rock movement and their implied effect on the musical landscape on the 1990s. Given that even Peter Buck has called some of that praised material the work of "old, miserable has-beens" suggests the critical elite needs a more distanced eye when it comes judging others who also can do no wrong.


xolondon said...

What an excellent post. My college roommate and I have long noted Rolling Stone's REM stance- that each album marks a return from the disastrous release prior. This same effect occurs in Prince reviews.

Daft Monk said...

I've noticed that with Prince reviews too. Perhaps it’s just a convenient device to admit after the fact that the mass audience might have a point on that last album not living up to the reviews: with the current album being completely different of course.