. . .
File Under Easy
For Accelerate, R.E.M. had changed producers yet again, replacing Pat McCarthy, who’d come aboard during Up, with Jacknife Lee, an Irish producer who’d worked with artists like Snow Patrol, Bloc Party and U2. And indeed, it was the Edge who recommended Lee, who helped R.E.M. the album short, sharp and focused as fuck. It had been two decades since they’d worked so fast.
And so my favorite song on Accelerate was the penultimate track, “Horse to Water,” which starts off with a massive Bill Reiflin drumbeat and Michael Stipe singing over clanking guitar noises.
I could have kept my head down
I might have kept my mouth shut
I should have held my own
You lead a horse to water and you watch him drown
The cool thing about “Horse to Water” was while the verses were all chaotic noise — guitars bouncing all over the speakers — after every single verse, they cranked to maximum fuzz, as punk rock as this punk-influenced band ever got, in terms of speed, lyrical content and just pure thrash.
But, of course, R.E.M. being R.E.M., they had go and ruin it by having a melodic sing-along chorus, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe singing in fantastic harmony.
I’m not that easy
I am not your horse to water (water)
I hold my breath, I come around, round, round
Of course, I’m just kidding about “ruining it,” because with somebody — I don’t think it’s Mills, but McCaughey — adding the extra “water” on the chorus, the catchiness of “Horse to Water” just made it that much better. Actually, come to think of it, “Horse to Water” would have felt in place on, say, New Day Rising, though Peter Buck’s guitar doesn’t have as much sustain as Bob Mould’s guitar did.
In any event, songs like “Horse to Water” were one of the reasons that Accelerate was such a successful reaction to Around The Sun. Almost a do-over, actually. To the point where they even repeated they music publishing runner they used on Around The Sun on Accelerate, where all of the songs on the record were administered in all worlds, now known and hereafter devised, by Warner/Tamerlane Publishing Corp, the only time in their entire career where they used the same variation of that joke on two records in a row.
It was also their first clear commercial and critical hit since New Adventures in Hi-Fi, making it to #2 on the Billboard album charts amid a slew of positive critical notices. R.E.M. had come back. So the only thing left was to break up.
“Horse to Water”
“Horse to Water” live in Dublin, 2007
“Horse to Water” live in Austin, 2008
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