”Fall on Me,” indeed. This autumn, it’ll not just rain but pour major album releases, with the world’s three biggest alt-rock bands — R.E.M., Pearl Jam, and U2 — all destined to pack shelves with new product within a two-month period.
Son of ”Monster”: R.E.M. returns Sept. 10 with New Adventures in Hi-Fi, described by John Keane (at whose Athens, Ga., studio the band mixed the album) as ”more melodic than Monster” but ”less mellow than Automatic for the People.”
Some material will be familiar from R.E.M.’s ’95 world tour. The upcoming concert film Road Movie includes live versions of several songs also on the upcoming record, including ”The Wake Up Bomb” and ”Undertow” — plus ”Revolution,” a fresh favorite among tourgoers that, curiously, didn’t make the album.
Hi-Fi itself might be considered a semi-”live” record. ”A lot of things were partly recorded on tour — backstage, in dressing rooms, at soundchecks — and then augmented in the studio,” says band attorney Bertis Downs. Newer tracks, recorded this year in Seattle, include ”Bittersweet Me,” ”E-bow the Letter” (with vocals by Patti Smith), and ”New Test Leper.”
Tour plans? Nonexistent. Downs says the band is taking a year off — which will leave plenty of time for taking meetings. R.E.M.’s Warner Bros. deal expires with Hi-Fi; though rumors had them looking to DreamWorks or Outpost next, smart money is on the group renegotiating with Warner — at a record price.
Zoo-Too?: U2 was last seen working on a ”rock & roll” (read: not so ambient) album in Dublin and at Miami’s South Beach Studios with producers Flood, Nellee Hooper, and Howie B. Thirty tracks will be whittled down for an Oct. 15 release.
The tour — which won’t get under way till next year — will bypass arenas and go directly into stadiums, starting in the South. Given how outsized the ”Zoo TV” trek was, might fans assume the pendulum will swing away from multimedia madness and back toward basics? Wrong, Fly-breath. ”It’s certainly not gonna be ‘unplugged,”’ says manager Paul McGuinness. ”We enjoy performing in a big context. We were a terrible club band, so we don’t want to go back to that.”
Seattle Soars: Pearl Jam’s No Code is due Aug. 27; unofficial reports say the band will tour. But if you assume that’ll be the biggest album out of Seattle this fall, hedge that bet: The biggest of all alt-rockers emeriti, Nirvana, will leave fans one last postmortem morsel, with the long-awaited live collection From the Muddy Banks of Wishkah, washing up Oct. 8.