While Michael Stipe is skipping his promotional duties again, Peter Buck and Mike Mills are soldiering on, talking to music press and trying to create positive buzz before the release of R.E.M.’s fifteenth full lenght album Collapse Into Now. Rolling Stone‘s resident R.E.M. fanboy David Fricke has just published excerpts from his conversations with Peter and Mike. If anyone can scan this article from the printed version of Rolling Stone, please send the scans and I’ll add them to our press archive immediately.

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Last September, R.E.M. wrapped up the final session for their new album, Collapse Into Now, in Nashville. The next morning, guitarist Peter Buck started driving cross-country to his home in Portland, Oregon. “I like to drive, it allows you to decompress,” he says. “I got in my car at 6 a.m. and listened to my iPod for four hours. Then I decided to listen to our record. I remember thinking, ‘This is, song for song, the best thing we’ve ever done.’”

Bassist Mike Mills agrees, calling Collapse Into Now, out March 8th on Warner Bros., “our best record since Out of Time,” the group’s 1991 hit. “We took the shackles off and wrote whatever sounded good — balls-to-the-wall rockers, slow sad songs, great mid-tempo songs in the tradition of R.E.M. We had quality, top to bottom.”

The album also marks a crossroads for Buck, Mills and singer Michael Stipe. It is their last record for Warner, their label since the late Eighties. And after spending 2008 on the road for that year’s Accelerate, the trio chose not to tour behind the new album. “We don’t tour to prop up records — that’s not why we play live music,” Mills says. “That’s the thing about R.E.M. If we don’t feel it, we don’t go.”

“We were pretty sure we weren’t touring, going into this record,” Buck says. “There was nothing to distract us. And it felt really good.” As for R.E.M.’s free-agent future, “we’ve talked about it a little bit. There’s no rush. This record isn’t even out yet.” Mills puts it this way: “We have the option of doing anything we want — and no pressure to do anything.”

Buck and Mills began working on new material in March 2009, recording demos in Portland with guitarist Scott McCaughey and drummer Bill Rieflin, then passing the tracks to Stipe for vocal and lyrical consideration. The band cut the album’s 12 songs in four three-week bursts, two of them in New Orleans and one last summer in Berlin. Collapse Into Now veers in mood and velocity from the drone-and-stomp opener, “Discoverer,” and the high-speed sparkle of “Mine Smell Like Honey” to “Oh My Heart,” a hymn of love to the Crescent City with deep-blue brass by the local band Bonerama, and the melancholy drive of “It Happened Today,” which features the ecstatic moan of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.

But, Mills insists, “they’re all pretty much first or second takes,” noting that the backing track for the piano-based ballad “Walk It Back” was actually a rehearsal. “When we cut it again, it sounded formal and strained.” The action-poem fury of “Blue,” the album’s closing track, came out of a last-minute idea Buck had in Berlin. The band played it once. “Then Michael said, ‘I’ve got something that goes with that,’” Buck recalls. Patti Smith added her chantlike vocal in Nashville.

“I want to be proud…. This is my time,” Stipe declares in “Blue,” and that faith in something better, waiting just around the corner, runs throughout the album. Mills cites the song “Überlin”: “That character is in trouble but doing his best to get through it. He’s gonna make it. But it wasn’t easy.” Buck feels that way about R.E.M., who issued their first single in 1981 and endured a rough decade of rebirth after the 1997 exit of drummer Bill Berry. “This represents who we are now, in a great way,” Buck says of Collapse. “A lot of people say we did our best work in the early Nineties. But 15 years later, here we are again.”

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Also, Jacknife Lee has released all tracks for “It Happened Today” and allowed the fans to create their own remixes of the song and upload them online! Read more here, and even if you’re not interested in doing your own remix, don’t miss the chance to download the raw tracks and learn firsthand how the magic is made!

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3 Responses to “Rolling Stone loves Collapse Into Now… so far.”

  1. Auctioneer Says:

    Oh my God! “It Happened Today” multitracks!?!

    I LOVE YOU IVANA!!! happy happy happy

  2. Kirsten Says:

    The article seems to be featured in the American Rolling Stone issue. I know a newsdealer that carries international press, so I’ll keep my eyes open and see if I can snag the US issue on Friday. My CanoScan 8800F would make some brilliant scans for y’all winking
    But I can’t promise anything.

    What a GREAT idea to let people do remixes for It Happened Today and to give away the raw tracks – that interaction with the audience they’re doing is one of a kind, they deserve a special thank-you price for that!
    Oh, I have so many ideas for different It Happened Today versions in my head, but alas I don’t have any equipment (nor the time) to realize them…

  3. Rolling Stone loves Collapse Into Now… so far. | Great REM Tales Says:

    [...] more here: Rolling Stone loves Collapse Into Now… so far. Related Posts:R.E.M. Announce Spring Release for New Album | Rolling Stone Music R.E.M. have [...]

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