R.E.M. – Retracing The Maps & Legends – Part 2

By • Oct 5th, 2011 • Category: Features

R.E.M. - Green

“You Are The Everything” (1988)

As much as Document was a major turning point in the public view of the band, Green embodied their own increasing personal and political views. “Wake up, stand up, believe in yourself” seemed to the mantra of the hour. Sandwiched between two prime examples of this, “Get Up” and “Stand”, was the reflective “You Are The Everything”. Here was some Stipe-ian soul baring meets pep talk as crickets chirp and an accordion wheezes in the background. The instrumentation here is exquisite and the presence of mandolin foreshadows the monstrous role it will play in future world domination. (CS)

R.E.M. - Out Of Time

“Half A World Away” (1991)

Out of Time saw R.E.M. rise to gigantic mainstream heights and remain there indefinitely with two of their biggest commercial hits, “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People”. The move to Warner had finally brought the group to an international level, as their sound broadened and flourished mixing in baroque pop and eventually country elements into their music. But it was the deeper cuts that made Out of Time so timeless and enduring, including the heartbreaker “Half A World Away”, that somehow manages to make the mandolin and harpsichord combo sound pop savvy over Stipe’s introspective lyrics of loss and a longing to return to the way things were. (JL)

R.E.M. - Automatic For The People

“The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” (1992)

On the heels of the success of Out of Time, R.E.M. attempted to make an album of harder rock songs and ended up with the slower and weirder Automatic For The People. Despite its elongated tempos and further use of country and pop influences over a harder rock sound, it was universally praised, and many fans and critics think it to be the best R.E.M. album. It lacked the same powerful radio singles as Out of Time, but instead offered cult classic songs “Everybody Hurts”, “Man on the Moon” and “Nightswimming”. “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” showed off the band’s ability to inject a little novelty, making reference to the Solomon Linda’s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with falsettos and opening song structure, while simultaneously showcasing Stipe’s subtle poetry and keen vocal leadership. (JL)

R.E.M. - Monster

“Strange Currencies” (1994)

Every time I go into a used record or CD store, I always check the shelves for Monster. It is always there. My theory: this was the album that many R.E.M. albums bought, tried once, and returned. Monster is divisive. It’s coated in distortion and grime, and Stipe has famously remarked that all the songs were written in character as a commentary on the band’s newfound fame. “Strange Currencies” appropriates an old school R.E.M. jangle and sweetness, but uses this album’s unique aesthetic to powerful effect. It’s a love ballad, but an aggressive one, nearly savage – “These words: you will be mine” – but also terribly fragile: “I tripped and fell/Did I fall?/What I want to feel/I want to feel it now.” As is characteristic of their strangeness and humor, R.E.M.’s response to fame was to reflect upon it, nearly mock it – but without sacrificing an ounce of grace. (NG)

R.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi-Fi

“Be Mine” (1996)

R.E.M., never content with remaining static, took a couple of big experimental gambles with Monster and the follow-up New Adventures In Hi-Fi, borrowing heavy distortion from the current grunge movement, and despite a warm critical reception, it played to mixed fan reactions. New Adventures balanced fierce rock-n-roll with Stipe’s transparent, heartfelt songwriting and yielded a masterpiece. Much of it was recorded live, resulting in an epic sound, yet the best songs from the record were when the band showed restraint. “Be Mine” is not just the best cut off the album, but might be their greatest song ever. It’s subtle and builds its layers of guitars with grinding tediousness, while Stipe likens his desire for romantic love to that of religion. It’s noisy and repetitious, addictive and awe-inspiring. (JL)

The final chapter of R.E.M. continues with Up to Collapse Into Now

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