Thursday, November 9, 2023

R.E.M. – Reveal and Accelerate [Vinyl Reissues]

It’s certainly been a great year to be an R.E.M. fan. Along with the extensive 25th anniversary reissue of 1998’s Up (their first post-Berry album) going on right now and all of the extra love given to “Strange Currencies” (from 1994’s Monster) during season two of FX/Hulu’s The Bear this summer, we also got an incredible reissue campaign from the band’s partnership with Craft Recordings that generated a quartet of late-era reissues on high quality, 180-gram vinyl: 2001’s Reveal, 2004’s Around the Sun, 2008’s Accelerate, and 2011’s Collapse into Now. I’ve previously published my reviews of the Around the Sun and Collapse into Now reissues, so now it’s time to get into Reveal and Accelerate

Back in the 2000-2001 era of the band, R.E.M. was undoubtedly in a creatively transformative period that saw the still-settling trio fearlessly evolve their sound with more synthetic textures and even more sun-kissed, California cool melodies and background vocals than they had ever played with before. Reception was somewhat mixed on Reveal's thoroughly inspired singles – “Imitation of Life,” “All The Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star),” and I’ll Take the Rain” – and, on paper at least, the LP seemed to fare a bit better internationally than it did in the states. Those looking for a more typical “R.E.M. rock” sound may have been initially disappointed in the joyously chill summer vibes of Reveal, but one need look no further than the band’s triumphant return to MTV Unplugged in May of 2001 to hear how harmoniously wonderful the Reveal tracks dance alongside the rest of their catalog: Their delicious one-two opener of “All the Way to Reno” into New Adventures in Hi-Fi’s “Electrolite” and “Imitation of Life” being sandwiched between ‘80s and ‘90s favorites like “Cuyahoga” and “Find the River” are two incredible examples of this from the Unplugged setlist. 

By the time the band started writing and recording what would become Accelerate in 2007, their impressively-honed instincts were drawing them to revisit some of the rowdier, less-polished corners of their sonic roots. With both the writing and recording stages proceeding at a much quicker clip than they had in decades, the resulting songs feel absolutely turbo-charged with energy and enthusiasm. Physical singles were released for the beautifully buzzy “Supernatural Superserious,” the slow-burn singalong “Hollow Man,” and the bass-forward ecstasy-inducing “Man-Sized Wreath.” The first two even included a pair of wildly tasty Beat Happening covers as b-sides: “Red Head Walking” on the former and “Indian Summer” on the latter. Much like the live Unplugged setting helped to showcase the new Reveal tracks back in 2001, their absolutely jaw-dropping episode of PBS’ Austin City Limits certainly highlighted how the new Accelerate songs not only played extremely well in a live setting but also blended effortlessly with so many songs from their quintessentially college rock back catalog: “Fall on Me,” “So. Central Rain,” and the 1986-outtake-turned-2003-greatest-hits-cut “Bad Day” just to name a few. (Side note: Guys, we seriously appreciate the Austin City Limits DVD release but please silencing the deafening wails inside us that long for a vinyl pressing of this arrestingly great performance to enjoy as an album.

As with this year’s previous reissues of Around the Sun and Collapse into Now, Craft’s 180-gram repressings of Reveal and Accelerate look – but most importantly sound – seriously amazing. All four of these reissues have been handled with such a level of care and quality that make them all worth picking up – a fact made even more evident to me by the lush sonic expanse found on this pressing of Accelerate (especially compared to the original CD version that my ears have been most used to hearing since its initial release). Both Reveal and Accelerate come in single-sleeve, side-open jackets with a lyrics-and-liners printed insert (paper for Reveal and glossier, thicker stock for Accelerate) and much-welcomed, plastic-lined inner sleeves. Both of my vinyl discs were extremely clean of any surface noise (or even any manufacturing dust) and honestly sound so good. Shout out to Memphis Records Pressing for a stellar job on all four reissues. Once again, Craft has done an amazing job partnering with R.E.M. for these reissues and I’m always so thrilled to not only upgrade my older album copies but to also have an elevated listening experience. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of these (especially Accelerate) while they are still available. 

Along with the standard black version from Craft, the band also released a limited edition sky blue variant of Reveal and a black/white marble variant of Accelerate on their website. 

Here’s a helpful link to multiple purchase options for all four reissues: 

(P.S. – Seriously, can we get that Austin City Limits episode as a full album release one day, gents?!?)

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