R.E.M. – Green – Round 14: Graham’s Choice

This choice provoked some serious debate within the assembled members. However I cannot be sure that my critique led to the consequent decision by the band to split up the week after our meeting. Having followed the band from the earliest days I should feel that this is the breakthrough album to gaining   widespread appreciation, but for me, something went off message here.

I admitted early on that personal circumstances and age had a big impact on this choice and no doubt prejudiced my opinion. I guess if you joined R.E.M at Green, then the consequent ride was enjoyable and you could even go back and enjoy a fantastic back catalogue. When this album came out I played it all the time for months and saw them again live.

As the years went by, I came to see this album as a turning point. On this and consequent albums there are some wonderful individual tracks, however I now feel that none of these albums hang together  as well as their first four. I’m not sure how  much the decision to leave IRS for Warner Bros influenced my opinion or the music on the album. To me Stand paved the way to having to endure Shiny Happy ……. on Out of Time. Inside out has always sounded like a less powerful rehash of Finest Worksong from the previous album and I now would venture that everything else on Green has been done better on the previous albums. The first four albums seem to have all the real edginess, power, musicality and cavalier style that Green lacks. What Green has for me is a “polish” to the sound which wasn’t required.

I freely admit that I grew up treasuring R.E.M. and somehow having a degree of ownership taken away from me when the success after this album kicked in. Maybe I’m bitter? However choosing These Days (Lifes Rich Pageant) as my track certainly cheered up this grumpy old man!

Tom Listened: Green was my first REM album and, although it took a while, I grew to admire its insidious melodies, eventually recognising structure and flow in songs where initially there seemed to be none (The Wrong Child, World Leader Pretend, Hairshirt), and enjoying the lighter moments for what they were; clever little pop songs that do a little more than they say on the tin. Like most ‘indie kids’ of the late 80s/early 90s, I then felt an obligation to explore REM’s back catalogue and found it much less consistent than music history would seem to suggest. I seem to have clicked with alternate REM albums: Reckoning, Life’s Rich Pageant and Green are my keepers, the other three are, for me, less essential. But, at the time, I certainly didn’t foresee the awfulness of REM beyond Green. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the frankly execrable Shiny Happy People, I may well have wasted my money on a few more REM releases before realising they had shot their bolt.

Listening again to Green the other night, I was confused as to whether my feelings towards the record could be objective, mixed up as they are with very distinct memories of a first term at university. As Green filled much of my listening time at that time and not a huge amount since, it operates like a time machine and as such, I find it hard to determine whether it’s the songs I like or the memories they evoke. Probably a bit of both!

Rob listened: I love ‘Green’. Always have and always will. I came to REM late, having somehow confused them with Green and Red in my teenage idiocy and fell for ‘Document’ and ‘Green’ at the same time. I think they’re two parts of the same phase, the band breaking away from their roots, beginning to experiment with where they could go next. I understand Graham’s reservations, but for me this is pretty close to a Desert Island Disc, and even if they went and split up in a week’s time, songs like ‘World Leader Pretend’ and ‘You Are The Everything’ will go on and on.

Nick listened: A measure of how much REM are on my musical radar; I didn’t know they’d split up until I came back to see if Graham had posted this, and when I found out I didn’t care. At all. This record if anything shows the slight age-gap in DRC; the other three members all know this record well and have strong feelings about it, all love at leads one phase of REM’s career, and could easily spend all night debating the minutiae of those phases and when they each got off the bus. So too, seemingly, could several of the people who responded on Twitter as we listened – far more responses than we’ve ever had about any other record, and all from people a little older than I am. Because I’d never heard this record before, and thought it sounded alright; much like most REM up to and including New Adventures In Hi-Fi (and maybe bits of Up). I only got on the bus, or rather, only saw the bus from a distance, after everyone else here had got off it. Oh well.


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