Tuesday, 29 July 2008



The sixth R.E.M. studio album saw them making their major label debut after cleanly fulfilling their contract with IRS.  The band parted ways with the label due to their frustration at overseas distribution.  Green was recorded in Memphis with Scott Litt on production.

In many ways this was a real transition and bridging album.  With recording contract allowing/granting them complete creative control there was probably sense of giving Warners what they wanted/paid for, not least now being on a studio budget and longer time to achieve perfection.

The title Green exists on many levels.  The positive perception is one of a flourishing mindset and environment while the negative was the connotation of signing to a label and selling out in the name of money.  Regardless of the apparent mixed messages of the album title, set against a tough political climate with Bush Sr. sweeping the polls the agenda was to write a positive set of songs with hope and the intention to help people through.  And on that Green was released on 8 November 1988 the day George Bush was elected the forty first president of America.

Green played host to four singles: “Orange Crush”, “Stand”, “Pop Song ’89” and “Get Up”.  These are solid songs not necessarily ideal or the norm with view to pushing a band.  Before Nirvana coined the attitude and mentality of having an alternative act having a radio friendly unit shifter, R.E.M. was just as blunt in offering “Pop Song ‘89”, a clear salutation in opening up their stall to a fresh market.  As an album opener it’s placing it obvious.  With a video feature sarcastic topless dancing and bars covering nipples including Stipe’s he was heard to state that it was a piss-take and hopefully the end of the pop song.  If wishes were trees, trees would be falling.  Imagine “Finest Worksong” filtered through happy pills.

Hitting with big statements both “World Leader Pretend” and “Stand” serve as the political joints.  The former calmly acts as a verbal shake pointing digits at armchair politicians while the latter in an altogether more bouncy form urges/encourages the audience to get active.  This was one of the first non-pop R.E.M. songs I ever heard and it felt astounding.

“Dreams they complicate my life”

Peter Buck moved onto mandolin with this record.  At one point there was an idea of the album being half mandolin glory and half bubblegum heavy metal.  In the end the lines were less defined.  It is with “You Are The Everything” that the fresh sound from the new instrument tangs most.  Lines describing moments spent lost in thought sat on the backseat of a car offer grand recollection, a healthy kind of nostalgia with rare substance and value.  This is a summer evening song best served with the sun still bright and surroundings still.  Here is peace.

The crunch occurs towards the end with “Orange Crush” and “Turn You Inside-Out”.  The orange in question is Agent Orange as used in the Vietnam War and as a military like exchange occurs beneath the song the result is quite a dark one.  This was  a song somewhat born from Stipe’s father having being in the helicopter corps during the war.  And in equally expansive measure the words of “Turn You Inside-Out” expresses the power the band felt in its hands from becoming stadium rock.  It’s a chilling statement of the damage they could do.

“I Remember California” offers a dark and menacing closure in sparse fashion.  The trance like delivery of Stipe accompanying an almost tribal drone points to a rough past that looked likely to be the future.

Green serves solid if not superior.

Thesaurus moment: titivate.

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