Out of Time by R.E.M. March 12, 1991
Wow, I seem to be on an early 90’s kick here. That’s fine by me. Today’s feature is an album I’ve been meaning to review for IIS.
The album? Out of Time.
The band? R.E.M.
A bit of an overview: R.E.M. was the largest band to come out of Athens, Georgia. They were cataloged as a Jangle Pop band when they first hit the scene. The album that got them international exposure; Document, which featured the smash hit single The One I Love. That song got them to stardom. Green, the next album was released in 1988; this album contained the singles Pop Song ’89 and Stand, and Orange Crush. While those albums and singles are great listening, we’re here to review Out of Time.
You’ve probably heard its lead single somewhere during your life. During the summer of 1991, the song, Losing My Religion was everywhere. For those readers in northern climates, “losing my religion” means to lose one’s temper. The first track, Radio Song features the rapper KRS-1. The track is decent and it generally held my interest. Losing My Religion comes next and it is a powerful track. Stipe’s vocals really do shine here. The video is also interesting and I distinctively remember it captivating me when I was little, with the angel wings and that dance he does. Low, which follows Losing… is yet another good song although it didn’t quite hold my interest, maybe it’s because Losing… took so much of it. Near Wild Heaven held my interest, and reminded me of some lost 60’s song; perhaps it was the guitars and rhythms. Towards the end, the song almost takes on a Beach Boys air. Gone are the jangly guitars of their jangle pop days. Now, R.E.M. has become a fully-fledged alternative band.
Endgame seems all right, with its slow opening. The song is almost completely instrumental, save for the la, la, la of Michael Stipe. A nice interlude to open the next half of the album. On the next track, a member of a band that is also from Athens, Georgia joins forces with R.E.M. Shiny Happy People. Kate Pierson of the B-52’s is a guest on the track. Some folks regard this song as being too poppy and out of place on this album. I do not view it as such. The song is very much perfect for Out of Time and R.E.M. Shiny… conjures up memories of being with friends and having a great time.
Belong is a song that makes you feel good on the inside, at least that’s what it did for me. This song makes me feel like I am part of society, willing and able to be with the best of them. Half A World Away is a somber song. The mandolin, guitars, and lyrics capture this mood perfectly. Like almost every other song on here, my interest was kept firmly in place. Texarkana seems like it’s a decent country rock song. This song should have been a single, and I seem to have heard it on the radio before, oh yes, I heard it on WKKL. I think I may have played it.
Next, we come to Country Feedback, which like Tex… seems to touch on alt-country territory. This track would not be out of place if Steve Earle sang it. The lyrics are somber, and Stipe delivers this fluently. Desperation is in his voice, as perhaps he might have lost someone. The final track, Me in Honey has a bit of that jangle from their days of yore. The track brings up memories of staying at my grandmother’s house during the turbulent time when this album was released. With the closing of the album, R.E.M. have transitioned from jangle pop to sleek, polished alternative rock. 1991 was a good year for alternative rock, and this album seemed to be the harbinger of it. Out of Time heralded in the days of polished alternative rock.
So, it has come to be that time when I ask the question: is Out of Time shit?
No, you cannot place this album in the same sentence as the word shit. Out of Time, except for the track Low is a wonderful album and I recommend that the listener who wants to get into R.E.M. start here. This is a great jumping off point to venture into their discography. Pick this up along with Document, Green, and Life’s Rich Pageant.