1989, Music

Green (1989) by REM

When I first got into REM, my friends who got me into REM told me Green was the worst album. And so I didn’t listen to it for over 20 years. (Makes sense, right?) I do know a few songs from a mixtape a friend made me, but that’s less than half of the tracks.

I think you could say this is the second REM album where Stipe was singing “properly” – to hear him tell it – and that was both a good thing and a bad thing, since a lot of the appeal of their early albums is the mystery from the (nearly) indecipherable lyrics. That being said, it’s not like I dislike Stipe as a lyricist, he just seemed more profound when I couldn’t hear everything he said.

So Green finds them in a weird place. On the hone hand, some of the tracks feel like an attempt at following up the success of Document, only with a slightly more accessible sound – the lyrics are less obviously political and most of the songs have less of a deliberate difficulty to them – though “Get Up” has its arty moment.

But, on the other hand, a number of the songs see them embracing a kind of folk pop – that, we know now, would be more fully expressed on their next two albums – which they haven’t quite mastered here.

And it’s this odd fit that makes me agreement with the assessment of my tweenage friends 20+ years ago. I think Green is probably the weakest REM album between “Chronic Town” and when Berry left.

6/10

  1. “Pop Song 89” – 3:04
  2. “Get Up” – 2:39
  3. “You Are the Everything” – 3:41
  4. “Stand” – 3:10
  5. “World Leader Pretend” – 4:17
  6. “The Wrong Child” – 3:36
  7. “Orange Crush” – 3:51
  8. “Turn You Inside-Out” – 4:16
  9. “Hairshirt” – 3:55
  10. “I Remember California” – 4:59
  11. Untitled – 3:10
  • Bill Berry – drums, percussion, backing vocals, bass guitar on “You Are the Everything”, “The Wrong Child”, and “Hairshirt”
  • Peter Buck – guitar, mandolin, drums on track 11
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, keyboards, accordion, backing vocals
  • Michael Stipe – vocals

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