This isn't going to be a review of R.E.M.'s Accelerate; well, not exactly.
A review, to me, implies past tense. It implies a verdict has been reached and a decision will be rendered. I liveblogged the record when it was released Tuesday. I knew then my opinions would evolve as my first impressions were nullified by subsequent listens. I put it in the computer and immediately published my first impression of each song, more or less in real time. I've now listened to it several times and sure enough, I've changed my mind several times about several aspects of it. My feelings about this record are still fluid and will likely change again so instead of calling this a review, I'd like to call it a "snapshot."
Maybe we should back up further than my first impressions and start out with what I'd heard about the album going into it. After three records without founding drummer Bill Berry that ranged from being pleasantly uneven (Up, Reveal) to godawful (Around The Sun), word out of R.E.M.'s camp was this would be a return to the band's classic sound. Peter Buck got paid for those three records because he presumably did something on them, but no one knows what the fuck that something was. We were told prior to Accelerate's release that was about to change. Now we all know internet rumors and band interviews have historically had casual relationships with the truth but the rumors about the return of Peter Buck proved to be true. As for a return to the band's classic sound? Well, we'll have to talk about that.
If by "classic" you mean the band's I.R.S. records (Murmur, Document, Life's Rich Pageant, Fables of the Reconstruction, etc), I disagree that Accelerate is a return to those days in terms of sound or quality. The album from the band's past Accelerate most closely resembles is Monster and that is a bit problematic.
Monster reached #1 in the U.S. and sold over four million copies. Someone obviously liked it. I liked it... until I didn't, and I wasn't alone. I liked the album well enough but several months later I was bored with it and tried selling it to multiple used-CD stores on multiple occasions. Why multiple stores and occasions? Because the used stores had more than enough copies to satisfy the demand. In short, we all bought it and got tired of it about the same time. I wonder if Accelerate will suffer the same fate.