Noah Robischon
May 02, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

— R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, hammering out lyrics during the group’s recent recording sessions in Vancouver, British Columbia (bassist Mike Mills, meanwhile, mills about the keyboards at left). The Athens, Ga., trio — Stipe, Mills, and guitarist Peter Buck — is working on new material for both its 13th studio album, due next year, and an upcoming greatest-hits collection. ”[The songs] are polar opposites,” says Stipe of the tunes, which include the politically charged ”Bad Day.” ”They’re either very loud and rude and f — -ed-up sounding, or they’re really quiet and soft and f — -ed-up sounding.”

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