R.E.M.'s new double live album is a fan's wet dream. It was recorded during their five "live rehearsals" in Dublin in 2007, what Michael Stipe called R.E.M.'s "experiment in terror." Accordingly, it features early versions of almost every song from Accelerate (which is actually a good thing.) While the diehards who attended the shows would have been happy enough with the sneak peek of the new material, R.E.M. went further and culled some of their oft-forgotten tunes from their 25 plus year career, and breathed new life in them.
A handful of the songs here are close to being definitive versions ("New Test Leper", "Maps and Legends", "Electrolite," and a few others). The others come close to rivaling their album counterparts.
There are two previously unreleased tracks that were left off Accelerate, "Staring Down the Barrel of the Middle Distance" and "On the Fly." Both are capable tunes. But who are we kidding? This album is of interest because its the Greatest R.E.M. Setlist Of All Time. Utterly fantastic.
NPR is streaming the entire album here. The actual record comes out tomorrow.