“New Album” (2011) by Boris

Creatively titled “New Album” is the first of three full-length Boris records (and one shared LP with Merzbow) so far this year; and, living up to its name, New Album sticks out like a sore thumb in a sea of happy, healthy thumbs that make up Boris’ back catalogue. All traces of Boris’ position as one of the world’s leading noise bands are totally shunned to make way for a melody-heavy, shoegaze, almost Visual Kei record. Yes, it’s a “New Album”, as this is unlike anything Boris has ever done and likely will ever do again.

Every song sounds totally different. There’s ballads, the hardstyle-influenced techno, straight J-Rock; and no drone. Forgive me for preoccupying over that, but the idea of a Boris album without noise is like Brokencyde without awful – it just doesn’t happen. It hasn’t happened, and it never will happen. At least, I thought it never would. This isn’t to say it’s a bad record, just unexpected.

I can dwell upon how different New Album is, or, I can shut up and review it. Boris sound like a band that, after nearly twenty years of having crafted their own ground in the music world, slipped, fell, hit their head, had a laugh about it, and released an album in hindsight. This is the product. The fact that it is one of four released in the space of three months emphasizes just how little time must have gone into the production – instead, it seems like their tongue was firmly in their cheek while they laughed at themselves quietly.

That being said, I don’t want to give anyone the impression that this is a bad record. Because that’s not true. New Album is Boris saying to the world “Hey, yeah, we can play drone, but look what else we can do too!”. And while it’s a huge departure from their usual formula, it’s nice to hear a band break away from expectations every now and again, especially when the expectations are so firmly rooted into one broad genre (no, not as broad as “rock”, I just didn’t know a better way to put it).

Boris’ New Album is just that. New. Once again a veteran band thwarts all expectations of them, presenting themselves in a totally different light. Will it stick? Well, after listening to its two successors (“Attention Please” and “Heavy Rocks”), no. Boris are doing what they do best. But if you can’t get yourself into the noisy goodness of Boris’ traditional style, New Album would be a good place to start. It’s nothing that unique in the grand scheme of things, but for Boris, it’s the white elephant.


“Collapse Into Now” (2011) by R.E.M.

Generally, when an old band starts to slump, that’s the end of them. All it takes is that one bad record and their music will start getting worse and worse. For R.E.M., the band that produced masterpiece after masterpiece up until about 1992, this slump began with the departure of Bill Berry in 1997 – the band’s main reason to continue after this was Berry’s own request that they stay together.

In 2008, R.E.M. made their return to commercial and critical success with their minds set on their I.R.S. years, “Accelerate”. A year later, R.E.M. released “Live At The Olympia”, highlighting their newfound appreciation for both their ’82 debut EP “Chronic Town” and the 2005 critically panned “Around the Sun”. Now, in 2011, R.E.M. have released their best record for the last 15 years: “Collapse Into Now”.

Collapse forges a perfect balance between R.E.M.’s three distinct eras – the I.R.S. years, the early ‘90s, and the post-Berry years. Here is a band who have finally re-found (is that a word?) their feet, their confidence, and their enjoyment of what they do. Where “Accelerate” was made up of mostly Murmur-esque jangle pop (which by no means is a bad thing), “Collapse” sees the band embrace their entire history. Despite the cringe worthy album art.

The openers, “Discoverer” and “All The Best”, are powerful jangle pop songs songs that definitely bring forward memories of “Lifes Rich Pageant” and “Reckoning”. From here on, the listener is taken on a trip through R.E.M.’s back catalogue – and even through the catalogues of some of their friends (listen to the closing track. “Fitter Happier”, anyone?).

With a voice like a fine wine, Stipe has led his band through the thick of it, and thanks to the realisation that middle age really isn’t all that bad, has finally reclaimed his band’s spot on top of the music scene. “Collapse Into Now” sounds like a greatest hits record by the R.E.M. of a parallel universe – twelve songs that were each recorded at a different point in R.E.M. history. And with each song, a breath of fresh air. This wasn’t the R.E.M. anyone was expecting, but it definitely has what has been wistfully missed for the last 15 years – originality, creativity, and balls.


“I’ll have my Oxford comma, whether you like it or not.”