When recently-disbanded alt-rock icons R.E.M. hit the studio back in July, Rolling Stone optimistically speculated that the group was beginning work on their 16th album. As it turns out, they were actually putting the finishing touches on “We All Go Back to Where We Belong,” the final single of their astonishing three-decade career. (The track will appear with two other unreleased tracks on Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, a career-spanning retrospective due out November 15th.)
The song, a wistful ballad with a lush Burt Bacharach-esque arrangement, recalls the trio’s experimentations with easy-listening pop on their 2001 album Reveal, but the mood is even more placid and relaxed. It sounds a bit like the closing credits of a movie, a happy ending where the heroes head off into the sunset. As the tune winds down, Michael Stipe sings “Is this really what you want?” As much as we’d all love for the answer to be “no,” you can hear in his voice that he’s finally ready to move on, even though he’s overwhelmed by sentiment.
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