1. Get a real drummer Since Bill Berry retired in 1997, R.E.M. has relied on drearily unobtrusive studio pros who don’t contribute creatively. (Latest evidence: the band’s lackluster new album, Around the Sun.)
2. Reassert a big guitar sound Stipe & Co. are using a wash of keyboards to disguise bland songwriting.
3. Stop playing producer Instead, bring on Mike Mogis, who helped the pop wunderkinds in Bright Eyes realize their grand ambitions.