6 October 2013

R.E.M. - Out Of Time

If there were several albums I was desperate to avoid since becoming a blogger on ATTIWLTMOWOS, then this is one of them. Now as a rule, I don't loathe R.E.M. because they did a few songs which I enjoy very much, but there is one standout tune I find very cheesy and embarrassing that I genuinely wince myself when listening, and that's Shiny Happy People. I'm sorry people, but while it's endeared itself to the most commercial stations for twenty years and beyond, I really do abhor it and seems to me that R.E.M. have committed the biggest irony in music, after Starship's We Built This City. My brother bought this on the spur of the moment and well, I won't labour the point too much and ask why.

As much as alternative rock and its cult-ish image goes, R.E.M. are one of the forefathers in this field, they had one or two minor hits like the excellent but stripped down classic The One I Love and It's The End Of The World As We Know It (it's one I would love to sing on karaoke, but boy is it a challenge!). But enough of the whims and desires on onwards with this review.

Released in 1991, Out Of Time is the album that took R.E.M. from a small quirky cult group to an internationally recognised major act and there are plenty of notable and defining tracks on the release too. First single to emerge from it was Losing My Religion, and where to start with that? Frontman Michael Stipe describes it as a follow on from the Police's Every Breath You Take, a tale of obsession and not wanting to let go, but it's complemented very well by Peter Buck's mandolin, which he learnt to play only a few months earlier. I'm a rather hopeless romantic when listening to mandolin, but then there's Shiny Happy People, which - without trying to maul it - I just simply don't get. The vocal duties are shared with B-52s' Cate Pierson (who was also enjoying some success of her own then) and, I don't know, it just seems all wrong, they seem to be high on endorphins for no tangible reason. Interesting to note that the group didn't include it on their definitive 2003 compilation In Time, The Best Of R.E.M. 1988-2003.

Out of time was released when Hip Hop was coming into its own, and Radio Song features rap artist KRS-One which, while I'm not a fan of that genre, he does a reasonable job with the backing vocals and the oration at the end. Mind you, Stipe has written it with load of ironies and piss takes in mind, including his act. There's also a Byrds styled number in Near Wild Heaven, largely written by Mike Mills who clearly has visions of grandeur and of the hippie era twenty five years earlier. Low is one of the fillers on Out Of Time with a Wurlitzer and the occasional guitar, a bit Buffalo Springfield-ish, while I find Belong a reasonable harmonic tune in the chorus/bridge, the lyrics have been replaced by what I'm guessing is Bill Berry's poetry recital. Half A World Away features more mandolins and Mills playing harpsichord backed up by the obligatory string arrangement. Me In Honey sees the return of Miss Pierson on harmonies which provides the finishing touches delicately.

Back then, I wasn't a massive fan of R.E.M. and certainly there's nothing new I've heard so far that's going to change that two years after their breakup. Out Of Time features a number of resounding tracks, but the rest of it are nothing more than fillers and just don't do enough to turn a reasonable album into an all time classic.

7 out of ten. This is good and well worth a listen.

R.E.M. Official Website here on this link
Listen to Out Of Time here on Deezer
Buy the album here on Amazon

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