Yet you don’t sense the whole point is to turn back the clock. Take away the requisite anti-Bush lyrics (and the related “Houston,” about a Katrina exile) and Accelerate is largely about staring down a midlife crisis. Parts of the disc seem pitched to a certain audience — people with romantic associations of R.E.M. from their college-radio days who are now checking back in. “Sing for the Submarines” courts that audience by working a batch of old R.E.M. titles into the lyrics, and by adapting a warm Beatlesque sound. It works because Stipe sounds as down-to-earth as he ever has, and because the reassurance he offers seems honest. It’s an obvious topic for R.E.M. to write about as the members hover around 50, just as the rocking tone of Accelerate is an obvious move at this point. Sometimes the obvious can be a beautiful thing.
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