’80s bands seek return to form

3.5 out of 5 stars

R.E.M.’s last album was, in the opinion of many people (myself included), somewhat of a disappointment. It was not that “Around the Sun” was a bad record, but it was missing the band’s trademark jangly guitars and upbeat nature, leaving us with Michael Stipe imitating his favorite lounge singer.

The venerable threesome from Athens, Ga., have made up for this faux pas with an album that signifies a return to rock. It’s a lean 36 minutes of Peter Buck’s familiar guitar playing, Michael Mills’ steady bass and backup vocals, and Michael Stipe’s energetic lead vocal work. The group has put together a record that owes more to its distant past then it does to its recent history, which on the surface might sound tiresome, but really is not.

The band doesn’t tread new ground on this release but that was never the intent. It feels more like they’re proving to themselves and their fans that they still have the fire and vigor that made R.E.M. a household name in the ’80s and ’90s.

Key Tracks: “Supernatural Superserious,” “Living Well Is the Best Revenge”

The B-52s
2 out of 5 stars

Admittedly I’ve been joking about this album for weeks. Can you blame me? After all, this is the same band that brought us wedding-floor classics like “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster.” But I summoned the resolve to sit down and give this as fair a review as possible.

In all honesty, I expected the worst and the worst did not come. From a musical standpoint it’s a perfectly acceptable dance-rock album, with plenty of catchy guitar and synthesizer hooks. And while the sound is 21st century in nature, it is still very much a B-52s record in feel.

But there is a downside to this album. Fred Schneider’s over-thetop herky-jerky vocal style has gotten more annoying than ever and sounds like it’s straight out of the early ’80s. Less than intelligent lyrics don’t help matters.

It’s a good record for what it is, but if you didn’t like The B-52s 20 years ago, you won’t like them now.

Key Tracks: “Hot Corner,” “Ultraviolet”