Confident R.E.M. plans to rev up rock monster

Ballads back-burnered on next disc

Nobody would ever confuse R.E.M. for Metallica, but the guitars definitely have been turned up for the Georgia group's 14th studio album, "Accelerate," due April 1 via Warner Bros.

Nearly all the material was tested out during a summer run in Dublin, though longtime manager Bertis Downs said in an interview that a few of those songs didn't make the cut and that a couple of album tunes were held back from live airings.

Mostly gone is the drowsy vibe of the band's most recent album, 2004's "Around the Sun," with "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," "Horse to Water," "Aftermath" and "Until the Day Is Done" recapturing the old R.E.M. energy. "It's not like we're going to pretend these are ballads. These are rockers," Downs said.

"I feel like there's a confidence in the material and a communication between the three of us that hasn't been there for some time," frontman Michael Stipe told British magazine Uncut. "We didn't talk to each other for a couple of records — as friends or as bandmates. And we reached a point before this LP where we just sat down at a table and hashed it out."

R.E.M. will tour in the spring; for now, the lone confirmed date is an appearance at the Langerado Festival, which runs March 6-9 in Big Cypress, Fla.

Jonathan Cohen is senior editor at Billboard.
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