Warner Music – 2001 – 53 minutes

On hearing REM's latest album 'Reveal', U2's Bono was moved to declare it was so good it made him feel physically ill. Notwithstanding the latter's affinity for exaggeration, 'Reveal' is, in fact, a timely reminder that REM still have the ingredients that marked them out as one of the finest American bands of their generation.

Lush and atmospheric, 'Reveal' sounds like the album REM were trying to make with their 1998 effort 'Up'. Where the latter often plodded, 'Reveal' sounds liberated and liberating, with its biggest triumph managing to sound fresh and invigorating. Of course, this being REM, all this only becomes apparent after repeated listening.

'The Lifting' is the brightest opening to an REM album since 'What's The Frequency Kenneth?' Flashing synths, pulsating drums and Mike Mills' metronomic piano provide the template for Stipe to welcome us a la 'Pop Song '89', "Good morning and how are you?/The weather's fine, the sky is blue". An early run-out of his falsetto mode follows on the gentle 'I've Been High' before the maverick swagger of 'All The Way to Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star)' harks back to the band's early days.

'She Just Wants To Be' and 'Disappear' are the album's initial slow-burners that eventually emerge as two of the stronger tracks. Not the strongest, however. The jury for that particular distinction is split between the poignant 'Beat A Drum' and the epic 'I'll Take The Rain'.

Often stirring, always interesting and rarely off the mark, 'Reveal' is a fine album that will do nothing to dispel the notion that REM are still a force to be reckoned with. He probably won't get sick, but Bono should still keep the basin nearby.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: The Lifting – I've Been High – All The Way To Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star) – She Just Wants To Be – Disappear – Saturn Return – Beat A Drum – Imitation of Life – Summer Turns To High – Chorus And The Ring – I'll Take The Rain – Beachball