All-Time Albums: #81


R.E.M. Green

1 Pop Song 89 3:03 (UK single)
2 Get Up 2:35
You Are The Everything 3:45
4 Stand 3:10 (UK single, #48)
World Leader Pretend 4:15
6 The Wrong Child 3:35
Orange Crush 3:50 (UK single, #28)
Turn You Inside Out 4:15
9 Hairshirt 3:55
10 I Remember California 5:05
11 Untitled 3:09

I’ll be honest, R.E.M. never much interested me in the early years. They were heralded by the inkies (NME, Melody Maker, Sounds), and by Q magazine when it launched, but the band’s sound was all a bit jingle-jangle and, well, American in a way that was difficult to relate to if you were a suburban teenager hooked on the Thompson Twins, Howard Jones and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Their breakthrough in the US came in 1987, when The One I Love hit the Top 10, and that was probably the first time R.E.M. got played to any extent on mainstream radio here. Even then, I wasn’t bowled over enough to contemplate checking out the Document album. Finest Work Song stirred a little more interest, and tellingly, that style was very much the starting point for Green, their major label debut for Warner Brothers.

This is a near-flawless record, from the opening bars of Pop Song ’89 to the playout on Untitled (where the band all switched instruments). It doesn’t mess around, grabbing your attention with the first two songs before the beauty of You Are The Everything sucks you in completely. Stand always felt like an attempt to write a hit single (and in America, it worked) but it’s not as much of a novelty as Shiny Happy People. Side 1 closes with the evocative The Wrong Child (by this point, Stipe was a dab hand at plaintive, acoustic reverie), and yet Side 2 might be even stronger, kicking off with their first UK hit Orange Crush, peaking with the vitriolic rush of Turn You Inside Out, before going slightly weird-but-wonderful towards the end of the album.

Bigger commercial success was around the corner, but in some ways Green distils all the best aspects of R.E.M. into one LP.

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