Righting themselves via their long-awaited return to rock Accelerate, R.E.M. regrouped and rediscovered their core strengths as a band, strengths they build upon on its 2011 sequel, Collapse into Now. Cautiously moving forward from Accelerate’s Life's Rich Pageant blueprint, R.E.M. steer themselves toward the pastoral, acoustic moments of Out of Time and Automatic for the People without quite leaving behind the tight, punchy rockers that fueled Accelerate’s race to the end zone. This broadening of the palette is as deliberate as Accelerate’s reduction of R.E.M. to ringing Rickenbackers, and while it occasionally feels as if the bandmembers sifted through their past to find appropriate blueprints for new songs, there is merit to their madness. R.E.M. embrace their past to the extent that they disdain the modern, reveling in their comfortable middle age even if they sometimes slip into geezerhood, with Michael Stipe spending more than one song wondering about kids these days. He’s not griping; he’s merely accepting his age, which is kind of what R.E.M. do as a band here, too. Over a tight 41 minutes, they touch upon all the hallmarks from when Bill Berry still anchored the band, perhaps easing up on the jangle but devoting plenty of space to rough-hewn acoustics and mandolin, rushing rock & roll, and wide-open, eerie mood pieces that sound like rewrites of “E-Bow the Letter.” Any slight element of recycling is offset by craft so skilled it almost seems casual. This may impart a lack of urgency to Collapse into Now but it also means that it delivers R.E.M. sounding like R.E.M., something that has been in short supply since the departure of Berry.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine