Friday, July 14, 2023

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now [Vinyl Reissue]

It goes without saying that 2011 was a deeply bittersweet year for R.E.M. fans. The highs of getting a brand new album (Collapse Into Now, their fifteenth studio album overall) bottomed out just six months later when the legendary outfit finally called it a day. But where Michael Stipe’s charming wave on the Collapse Into Now cover turned out to be a fittingly farewell gesture back in 2011, it has now transformed into a bit of a reconnective greeting as it adorns the 2023 vinyl repress of the long out-of-print album. This year the band has once again partnered with Craft Recordings for a run of high quality, 180-gram vinyl represses of a quartet of their post-Berry-era releases, including Collapse Into Now and 2004’s Around the Sun (both out July 14), as well as 2001’s Reveal and 2008’s Accelerate (both out August 25).

As far as final albums go, Collapse Into Now proved to be an incredibly strong closing statement from the band. The energetic back-to-back album kickoff of “Discoverer” and “All the Best” contain all of the best elements of the band’s singular magic – Stipe’s peerless vocal swagger, Peter Buck’s enchantingly buzzy guitar riffs, Mike Mills’ foundation-rattling bass and duet-like background vocals, and invitationally singalong choruses – seamlessly woven together in familiar-yet-still-fresh arrangements. The three commercially-released singles from the album – “Mine Smell Like Honey,” “Ɯberlin,” and “Oh My Heart” – all have their own apropos sonic signatures, with the latter’s enduring timelessness being evidenced by its prominent placement last year in an episode of one of the most popular television show’s of the moment, Hulu’s The Bear. Collapse Into Now is also notable for boasting one of R.E.M.’s most robust guest lists – featuring incredible musical contributions from Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, Lenny Kaye, Peaches, Joel Gibb, and others (including a robust horn section on a couple songs).

The first thing about the 2023 repress of Collapse Into Now that sets it above its original 2011 pressing is the quality of the 180-gram vinyl. You can not only feel the heavier weight when pulling it out of the sleeve, but also the sonic presence of the tracks feel more crisp and cohesive. The meticulous attention given to the vinyl album itself – cut by Kevin Gray of Coherent Audio and pressed at Memphis Records – comes through in both its physical feel and aural brilliance. The packaging is unembellished but certainly reliable enough; featuring a standard side-open jacket, white poly-lined inner sleeve, and single-page monochrome lyrical/liner printed insert. As far as standard reissues go, the impressive leveling up of the actual vinyl (both in physical durability and sonic quality) is worth the price of admission alone. Along with the standard black version from Craft, the band also released a “Milky Clear” variant on their website (limited to 1,000 copies).   
Here’s a helpful link to multiple purchase options for all four reissues

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