Collapse into Now is the fifteenth and final studio album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released on March 7, 2011, on Warner Bros. Produced by Jacknife Lee, who has previously worked with the band on Accelerate (2008), the album was preceded by the singles, "Mine Smell Like Honey", "Ãberlin" and "Oh My Heart".
Regarding the album's title, lead singer Michael Stipe noted, "It's the final thing I sing, the last song on the record before the record goes into a coda and reprises the first song. In my head, it's like I'm addressing a nine-year-old and I'm saying, 'I come from a faraway place called the 20th century. And these are the values and these are the mistakes we've made and these are the triumphs. These are the things that we held in the highest esteem. These are the things to learn from."
As of September 2011, the album had sold 142,000 copies in the United States. At the time of the band's breakup, bassist Mike Mills noted that the album's lyrical content contained "indications" that the band were planning to split. It was the only album of material never performed live by the band.
Background and recording
In 2008, while touring in support of Accelerate, R.E.M. discussed the possibility of ending the band in the near future. Entering the studio with producer Jacknife Lee, the band began recording a final studio album, with the intention of "going out on a high note." Regarding these initial discussions, bassist Mike Mills stated, "We knew we had some decisions to make regarding our contract with Warner Bros. We had to make some decision about how to continue going forward as a recording unit, and if we still wanted to tour together. Oddly enough, I think that independently, we all arrived at the conclusion that this was such a great opportunity to walk away on our own terms, that we thought, 'Why not take advantage of it?'"
Collapse into Now was recorded in four different cities: Berlin, Germany, Nashville, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana, with demoing taking place at Jackpot Studios, in Portland, Oregon. Regarding the recording process, and the fact that it marked the conception of their final studio album, Mills noted, "We tried to enjoy it as much as possible and make it as fun as possible, but weâre not super-sentimental people in that sense. The only time we got really poignant was when we were working in Berlin, and they have a beautiful room there, Meister Halle, where we recorded seven or eight songs. There was no one there really except some friends, family, and significant others, and we knew that was probably the last time we would ever play together as R.E.M. That was a pretty fraught day. But it was fun."
In comparing the record to the band's previous release, Accelerate, Mills noted that the band, "wanted this new one to be more expansive. We wanted to put more variety into it and not limit ourselves to any one type of song. There are some really slow, beautiful songs; there are some nice, mid-tempo ones; and then there are three or four rockers." He has spoken about the album's theme, saying: "It's more of a personal record than a political one. Current events do come into our mind when we write, but the themes here are more universal."
The album features guest appearances by Patti Smith, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Peaches, Lenny Kaye and Joel Gibb.
According to Michael Stipe, the album contains "one of the only autobiographical songs of my entire career as a songwriter, in the opening track, "Discoverer". It's a song of discovery. It's about realizing that the city offers you this unbelievable potential and opportunity; all the things you are looking for in your teens and your twenties. That's what New York offered me."
Release and promotion
To promote the album, the band released music videos for each song on the album, featuring directors such as James Franco, Sam Taylor-Wood, Jim Herbert, and lead singer Michael Stipe. Stipe notes that: "The idea was to present a 21st-century version of an album. What does an album mean in the year 2011, especially to generations of people for whom the word album is an archaic term? An album for me as a teenager in the '70s was a fully formed concept. It was a body of work from an artist I liked or trusted or who excited me..[...] I wanted to present an idea of what an album could be in the age of YouTube and the Internet. Not from Kanye West, not from Lady Gaga, not from BeyoncÃ©; they've got their place. This is what we do. We put together and sequenced the strongest body of work that we could possibly come up with in this moment in time and put it onto this record."
During promotion, the band stated that it had no intention of touring to support the album, with Peter Buck citing in an interview with NME that "it does seem like we've toured a lot in the last eight or ten years. To some degree it felt like we'd just been doing kind of the same thing we did last time. You just don't really want to repeat yourself in that way." He also stated that touring doesn't help album sales and concluded, "It seems like less and less people are buying albums, so do what you want."
Complying with their resolution of not engaging in a new tour, R.E.M. officially disbanded as a group in September 2011, six months after the album was released.
For 2011's Record Store Day, the band released R.E.M. Threeâ"a package of three 7"s containing each of the commercial singles for the album.
Collapse into Now received mostly positive reviews. The album currently holds a 71/100 on Metacritic, with a user score of 7.9.
Pitchfork's Matt LeMay stated that "Collapse into Now also hosts some unlikely successes of its own; in spite of its discouraging title, "Mine Smell Like Honey" overcomes a water-treading verse and ascends to a truly a majestic classic R.E.M. chorus, complete with soaring Mike Mills backing vocals and jangling Peter Buck guitars. "Walk It Back" alone is worth the price of admission here, a gorgeous and enveloping song that takes a step back from the album's dense arrangements and gives Michael Stipe's vocals room to resonate. . . This album is host to more such complexity than anything since 1998's Up, but Collapse Into Now still sounds like the work of a band caught between old habits and new adventures."
Josh Modell of Spin wrote that "(h)ere . . . they discover the glow of middle age, warmly acknowledging the pastÂ â" hello again, Peter Buck's mandolinâ"while realizing that the present can feel just as comforting... Collapse mostly sounds like a familiar friendâ"reliable in all the best ways, but still capable of quietly insinuating surprises.
All songs written by Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, except as noted.
- "Discoverer"Â â" 3:31
- "All the Best"Â â" 2:48
- "Ãberlin"Â â" 4:15
- "Oh My Heart"Â (Buck, Mills, Stipe, and Scott McCaughey)Â â" 3:21
- "It Happened Today"Â â" 3:49
- "Every Day Is Yours to Win"Â â" 3:26
- "Mine Smell Like Honey"Â â" 3:13
- "Walk It Back"Â â" 3:24
- "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter"Â â" 2:45
- "That Someone Is You"Â â" 1:44
- "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I"Â â" 3:03
- "Blue"Â (Buck, Mills, Stipe, and Patti Smith)Â â" 5:46
- Amazon MP3 Downloads and iTunes bonus tracks
- "Discoverer" (Live in the Studio)Â â" 3:31
- "Oh My Heart" (Live in the Studio)Â â" 3:28
- iTunes bonus track
- "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" (Live in the Studio)Â â" 2:44
Chart positions and certifications
- Peter BuckÂ â" guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, production
- Mike MillsÂ â" bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, production
- Michael StipeÂ â" lead vocals, production, packaging
- Additional musicians
- Shamarr AllenÂ â" trumpet on "Discoverer", "It Happened Today", and "Oh My Heart"
- Bonerama Horns:
- Greg HicksÂ â" trombone
- Craig KleinÂ â" trombone
- Mark MullinsÂ â" trombone and horn arrangements
- Joel GibbÂ â" vocals on "It Happened Today"
- Lenny KayeÂ â" guitar solo on "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter", guitar solo on "Blue"
- Jacknife LeeÂ â" production, mixing, keyboards, guitar
- Leroy JonesÂ â" trumpet on "Discoverer", "It Happened Today", and "Oh My Heart"
- Kirk M. Joseph, Sr.Â â" sousaphone on "Discoverer", "It Happened Today", and "Oh My Heart"
- Scott McCaugheyÂ â" guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, accordion
- PeachesÂ â" vocals on "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter"
- Bill RieflinÂ â" drums, bouzouki, keyboards, guitar
- Patti SmithÂ â" vocals on "Blue"
- Eddie VedderÂ â" vocals on "It Happened Today"
- Technical personnel and packaging
- Sam BellÂ â" engineering and mix engineering
- Chris Bilheimer and Michael StipeÂ â" packaging
- Anton CorbijnÂ â" photography
- Stephen MarcussenÂ â" mastering
- Tom McFallÂ â" engineering