Reveal has a warmth that comes from finally being able to use all the shiny happy toys...
Chris Jones 2008-03-13
Following the creative disarray of Up, caused by the surprise departure of drummer, Bill Berry, REM finally started to come to terms with their status as a three-piece. Compared to its predecessor their twelfth album is a happier, sunnier document, still entranced with electronica but not afraid to return to the gentle acoustic period of Out Of Time as well.
The band obviously realised that while Up sold in good enough quantities, they were in danger of alienating their massive fanbase. While Monster had attempted to return them to the full-on rock of their more lucrative period, this time it wasn't Peter Buck who saved the day but Michael Stipe. His vocals are clear and concise, showing no debt to the muddy, blurred outpourings that had in turns added to their early mystique and frustrated anyone trying to find deeper meaning. Put simply, Reveal is full of love songs.
The biggest hit here, Imitation Of Life, successfully recreates the rush of Losing My religion; sounding utterly joyous and in love with life. Beat A drum even sees our man Stipe singing of a sexual encounter that leaves him reeling. No wonder he sounds happier... And who could resist the Gl;en Campbell-alike baritone twang of All The Way To Reno? Even Bucks and Mills' Beach Boys obsession gets another (successful) airing on Beachball. It's all like a nice warm cup of tea poured into your ears.
Overall the expanded cast of Joey Waronker on drums, as well as the Posies' Ken Stringfellow and the Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey on keyboards never clogs up the surroundings. If the band's earliest recordings always suffered from underproduction, and albums like Up and New Adventures In Hi Fi sounded too calculated and pristine to make you care, Reveal has a warmth that comes from finally being able to use all the shiny happy toys that modern technology had to offer. we could all breath a sigh of relief...