R.E.M.: Finding Their Religion

After a decade of aimlessness, the once-great band is back with its best album in years

Cass Bird

The band R.E.M.

In your leisure time, you most likely enjoy fun, which is why you most likely did not enjoy any of R.E.M.'s past three albums. If memory serves--and the thick layer of dust coating 1998's Up, 2001's Reveal and 2004's Around the Sun is a stern warning to let it--these records paled in comparison with R.E.M.'s earlier, essential material but were right on a par with Woody Allen's recent output. Which is to say, there were vestigial hints of artistry but a disturbing lack of purpose and energy. Facing the age-old choice of burning out or fading away, R.E.M. appeared to have...

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