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Accelerate, REM

If a rock band sticks around long enough, it will pass through every phase known to musicologists: critical darlings, commercial breakthrough (first hit single), mass acceptance (second hit single), experimental phase (add an orchestra), back-to-basics (take away the orchestra, remake your first album) and so on.

REM, grandfathers of American alternative guitar rock, have been around so long that they are probably on their second or third lap - it's 25 years since the world was first alerted to the now-familiar ingredients of Peter Buck's chiming guitars and Michael Stipe's unmistakeable Kermit-the-frog voice with their debut album Murmur, and a good decade and a half since we were all singing and playing air mandolin along to classics such as "Man On the Moon" and "Losing My Religion".

So where are they now in their orbit? Well, in recent years their music has tended towards the slow and grand, with lush arrangements and fiddly faux-modern keyboard noises. By my calculation it must be time for something faster, leaner and, dare-we-say-it, punkier, recalling the stripped-down sound of their early records.

Et voila, Accelerate, the band's 14th studio album, is out now. If, though, you'd rather cling to your air mandolin memories then you can see REM when they visit the UK in July and August for festival appearances and their own enormo-gigs.

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