R.E.M. is "two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through" its next album, according to the group's Mike Mills, which means it's on target for a 2008 release, most likely some time in the spring. But

R.E.M. is "two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through" its next album, according to the group's Mike Mills, which means it's on target for a 2008 release, most likely some time in the spring.

"We've got another three weeks of recording and singing and what little overdubbing we're gonna do," Mills tells Billboard.com. "Michael's got a bunch of singing and I've got some backgrounds to do, and we've got a couple songs we hope Michael will finish. And then after the next three weeks or so is the mixing phase."

Mills' comment that "there isn't a whole lot of overdubbing on this record" supports reports -- as well as aural evidence from recent "working rehearsal" shows at Dublin's Olympia theater -- that it will be a guitar-dominated, hard-rocking record. For now, however, Mills says that he, Stipe and Peter Buck "made an agreement we weren't going to say what it is or not because we don't want to have expectations out there in any direction. But, of course, you can go on YouTube and listen to some of the Dublin shows and get a pretty good idea of where we're going."

Those concerts, he adds, did have a positive impact on the new material. "They did all the things we wanted in terms of not only generating excitement for the record but also helped us, I think, to make a better record," Mills says. "It just really kicked us into a higher gear."

Mills says working with producer Garret "Jacknife" Lee has been "fantastic. He's just what we needed at this stage of our career. He's very willing to experiment. He keeps things loose. It's a fun process; he just realizes this is something we're all lucky to be able to do, and we're all enjoying it as much as possible." R.E.M. has been recording with touring members Bill Rieflin and Scott McCaughey, but Ken Stringfellow hasn't been involved, Mills says, because "we're not using very many keyboards, and what we're using I do."

R.E.M. is hoping that its next release, the CD/DVD concert package "R.E.M. Live" from a 2005 show at Dublin's Point Theatre, will also provide "a springboard" for the new album. Mills says of the Oct. 16 Warner Bros. release, "it's actually so good that it's gonna whet people's appetite. It's nice to show people that we're still out here doing great work.