R.E.M., Old 97's

Ultimately, Rhett Miller and Co.'s latest (Blame It on Gravity) speeds past R.E.M.'s latest (Accelerate).

Miller, always a clever songwriter ("Barrier Reef," "W.I.F.E."), is also at his most confident on an album that kind of feels like more of the same ol': twang-pop-a-roll strychnine cut with the familiar honeyed voice Miller's possessed since he was a Marksman strumming Bowie-folk at Dave's Art Pawn Shop.

As for R.E.M., seriously, can you recall the last of the Athens band's albums you listened to again and again and again? Admit it: Automatic for the People. No? Fine, then—Document. OK, a compromise: Monster, which is the proper brand of loud craved by the fanboys for whom the body of work had grown nap-timey throughout most of the 1990s. But what of this century's output? Three albums, the most recent of which has its moments (moment?) but once again proves that, c'mon, R.E.M. stopped being R.E.M. when Bill Berry tossed his sticks into the fire.

In the DFW, the 97's ought to be the headliner—everywhere else too, as R.E.M.'s highlights will date back to an era when college radio broke a band, while the 97's' best moments in concert will date back to, oh, June, maybe?

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