Six weeks ago I went out and bought the then new, and still reasonably current, R.E.M album Around the Sun. After a fairly brief listen I posted, fairly hastily, my views on their efforts. Well, this evening I went over to Mark Kelly’s blog where he discusses the album. Setting aside the fact that he liked the album better than I did (or do), reading his post made me realise that I hadn’t clearly articulated one of the things I’d meant to. Mark notes that I responded to the lack of a drummer, which is true. What I should have made clear, and didn’t, was that what I was noting was Berry’s absence as part of their overall creative endeavour, rather than simply as a tub-thumper. The band is on record that Berry made a major contribution to their songwriting and played an important role in the studio, as well as playing. The big change in R.E.M’s sound is that the melody and structure which he’d been credited with providing is now gone. We have the fabulous, formless darkness. Sometimes this works wonderfully well – as in “Daysleeper” and a few others – but I find myself harking back to the last real R.E.M. album, New Adventures in HiFi, which remains superior (to me) to anything they’ve attempted since.