R.E.M. – Green
November 7, 1988
What It Sounds Like: A slightly more acoustic offering (with some mandolin!) from the alternative rock / jangle pop kings of Athens.
It’s an interesting task to try to sit down and review an R.E.M. record. They have such a vast catalog, it seemed a shame that I hadn’t reviewed any of their records for NoCoda, even though it was difficult to know how to even choose which one to start with. I tried to stay in the middle of the road – not the indie rock of Murmer, the straight ahead alternative of Monster, or the electronic overtones of Up. Green seemed like a well-rounded example of R.E.M., and a good starting place.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard Pop Song 89 at some point in your life. It’s an easy song to enjoy – upbeat, happy, and a nerdy little guitar riff to keep you company. It’s a concert and radio staple. But it’s not a perfect picture of the whole record. Orange Crush finds them channeling their inner-U2, while the beautiful You Are The Everything and Hairshirt showcase the slowed down, folk influenced R.E.M.
It’s a pretty solid record, save for the middle of the road World Leader Pretend, and the sore thumb that I have never understood…The Wrong Child, both stuck right in the center of Green, almost separating two pretty great halves of the same album. Not that every song has to be straight ahead pop like Get Up, but the experimentation simply doesn’t pay off well, and leads us into a dis-jointed picking track that may or may not merit a skip.
But even the few R.E.M. tracks at their worst still can outshine a lot of what else is out there. Without a doubt, they’re one of the most definitive bands of the 80s and 90s, and remember – Green was only six records into their career! We still had the likes of Losing My Religion and What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? ahead of us to look forward to. My only regret is that they never made their way to Nashville; I was never able to see them live – and with no chance of a reunion – I’ll simply have to live with that.
It’s alright. They have a pretty fantastic fifteen-record discography that could keep you company for quite a while.
If you had to listen to two tracks: Orange Crush / You Are The Everything