Out Of Time

R.E.M.

Warner Brothers Records, 1991

http://www.remhq.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/05/1998

The most difficult challenge for any band to face is topping an album that has been declared your classic. For R.E.M., their classic was declared to be Document. How could Michael Stipe and crew even think about topping songs like "The One I Love" and "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"?

But in 1991, with the release of their second major-label album Out Of Time, R.E.M. proved not only that they were capable of delivering a new classic, but that they also had a sense of humor mixed in with the melancholy.

This release marked a first for R.E.M.: working with guests who were major factors in the music, not just part of the background. For starters, Peter Holsapple became an unofficial fifth member of the group (even to the point of appearing with the band whenever they performed live). Having Holsapple with the band freed up regular guitarist Peter Buck to move to new instruments, such as mandolin. This resulted in a slightly more acoustic sound for R.E.M., as reflected in the first single "Losing My Religion". When I first heard this track not long before I left the world of college radio in 1991, I didn't think it would go far. Admittedly, the track has to grow on you; I now enjoy the song.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another first for R.E.M. was the addition of new vocalists. Rap and R.E.M. might seem like an odd mix, but KRS-One adds a special touch to "Radio Song," both with whoops an hollers during the song and with his ending rap. The song is a surprise slap in the face to the industry that was helping R.E.M. in major ways, but Stipe and crew let everyone know they continued to plan their own success, with or without the help of radio.

Kate Pierson of The B-52s makes two appearances on Out Of Time, one being on "Shiny Happy People," a song that dared to show a new side of R.E.M. - a, well, happy side. Who woulda thunk it? The song is a tad cornball, but is infectiously catchy, nonetheless. (The other appearance by Pierson, "Me In Honey," relegates her mostly to a backing vocalist, not as much in front as on "Shiny Happy People".)

So, had enough surprises? Don't relax yet, 'cause R.E.M. isn't through yet. Bassist Mike Mills takes a new, surprising role as lead vocalist on two songs, "Near Wild Heaven" and "Texarkana". No offense against Stipe, but should he ever find himself unable to sing (say, laryngitis), Mills proves he is a talented singer - in fact, I wouldn't mind hearing him belt out more songs. A spoken word piece ("Belong") and a mostly instrumental number ("Endgame") tend to round out the surprises.

Other songs on Out Of Time, such as "Half A World Away" and "Country Feedback," seem to abolish the old rockin' band we all knew; this just served as a preparation for the strange direction they would take with their followup, Automatic For The People. Still, it's an enjoyable break. (One note: Although I am against the stupid practice of stickering albums for lyrical content, can anyone explain how Stipe can get away with saying "fuck" and not get the dreaded sticker? Possibly because putting a sticker on this one would mean kids couldn't buy it, and they want this group to sell? HUH?!?! EXPLAIN IT, PLEASE!!!)

Out Of Time was a captivating listen in 1991, and it still is an incredible album seven years later. If you could only afford two R.E.M. albums, Out Of Time would be a no-brainer to purchase.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-


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