ON the ground floor of a nondescript building, a few blocks from the University of Georgia campus here, sits a little room stuffed with instruments and decorated with Christmas lights, lava lamps, old concert posters and tacked-up 45s. R.E.M. started rehearsing in this space in 1985, and it looks as if nothing has changed.
This is a place to work not hang out, and work is what Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills were doing on this March afternoon, blasting through 13 songs over the course of a few hours. It was their first day of rehearsal for the shows that would introduce their hard-charging new album, "Accelerate" (Warner Brothers), and they weren't exactly easing back onstage: later in the week they were headliners at the Langerado festival in Florida, followed by a date at South by Southwest in Austin, Tex.
"We never do much rehearsal," Mr. Buck, 51, the band's guitarist, said over a ginger ale later at a dark, empty bar around the corner. "Sometimes having that little edge of not feeling comfortable with the songs gives it a little bit of energy. Terror will do that."
Despite spending 28 years together, at this moment a touch of fear is understandable for the trio. (The fourth member, the drummer, Bill Berry, left the band in 1997, following a brain aneurysm.) From its debut in 1981 until the mid-1990s R.E.M. was a definitive American rock band, but its sales and influence have steadily declined in the last decade. "Accelerate" is a very deliberate response to an internal crisis that Mr. Stipe, the group's singer, described as major, and that they all agreed almost broke up the band.