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Old 03-07-2010, 11:34 PM   #61 (permalink)
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Right then, thanks for your input.

Green
Released 1988
Warner Brothers Records


1988 found R.E.M. at something of a crossroads. With a major record deal from Warner Brothers and a top ten single, the band seemed poised for mainstream success. In this way, it would appear that retaining the political role that R.E.M. had adopted with Document was in the best interest of the band commercially speaking. With this in mind, the follow-up "Green" could have easily been a sort of Document 2.0, less energetic, more polished, and written with less anxiety and currency. Thankfully, while their political/environmental message is not abandoned entirely on Green, it is approached with a certain resolve and maturity not seen from R.E.M. up to that point.

Whenever the Document formula is not fully dropped, it is amended and improved. Roughly a third of the songs present on Green are upbeat rocking political anthems, but where this method produced largely mediocre songs on Document, tracks like the pulse-pounding Orange Crush work quite well. The secret lies in the production, which is murkier than Document yet still resonating. On Orange Crush, producer Scott Litt, with whom R.E.M. worked on Document, mixes in sounds of helicopters and muttered words, adding to the overriding anti-Vietnam theme. With Litt's production, guitars sound heavier, drums more machine-gun like, and bass more determined to the point where the more upbeat songs on green simply blow Document out of the water. Orange Crush, for all its anthemic fist-pumping fervor is not even the best of the bunch, as the following song Turn You Inside-Out is even more visceral and engagingly aggressive.

"Divide your cultured pearls in haste
I'm looking for to lay to waste"


Stipe jeers, with the only believable kiss-off he has made to date. Mike Mills, ever distant sounding, still offers a remarkable backing vocal, supporting Michael with a resounding "I believe in what you do!" On the whole, Turn You Inside-Out is everything Document sought to accomplish, and an absolute highlight.

Juxtaposed against these angry and well made anthems is the majority of Green: down-tempo meditations of mandolin and organ, perhaps no less politically or environmentally conscious than their rocking counterparts but exponentially more mature and lyrically well developed. Rife with images of the outdoors, woods and fields, these songs seem to channel the classic "Fables of the Reconstruction" and "The Good Earth." Some of the material is so good that it would be at home on either of those records, such as the achingly gorgeous You Are the Everything. As crickets chirp in the background and the mandolin riffs a beautiful pattern, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills sing their most romantic song to date. With repeated listens, You Are the Everything quickly reveals its nearly unmatched brilliance.

Nearly on par with You Are the Everything is the underrated Untitled album closer. Slightly more upbeat musically and lyrically, Untitled reads like a call to arms if not an honest decree of romantic devotion. "The world is big and so awake", he sings. "I stayed up late to hear your voice"

With two great counterparts, Green's largest issue is its failure to tie the two together. Attempts at finding a middle ground are few and far between on the record, and for the most part they do not succeed in connecting the firey with the contemplative. The catchy single "Stand" and the cheerful "Get Up" try, but ultimately succumb to the irony and forced nature of their own shimmering joyfulness. However, one song stands out as the perfect balance between Green's two very different personalities. "World Leader Pretend" is a reflection more than an anthem; a conflagration of emotion somehow detatched from any sense of aggression yet perfectly constructed lyrically and musically. It is the triumph of a band that never knew a direction, and the ultimate point of maturity for R.E.M.

There are many things that are great about Green, but the sum of its parts are greater than the whole. As an experiment, Green was well executed. However due to a lack of cohesion, it is merely a good record that happens to display some incredible material.

Key Tracks: "You Are the Everything"; "World Leader Pretend"; "Turn You Inside Out"

7.5/10



Next Step: The Decemberists - Castaways and Cutouts

Last edited by Rickenbacker; 03-30-2010 at 12:09 AM.
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Old 03-10-2010, 02:40 PM   #62 (permalink)
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Green seems to be my least favorite of the major label albums they put out before Berry left the band. Maybe I should give it more of a listen because it is really a pretty good album. I agree with your review for the most part.
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Old 03-10-2010, 06:09 PM   #63 (permalink)
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The review of Green is spot on. Here's an interesting thing Peter Buck said about the development of "Untitled" in Reveal: The Story of R.E.M. by Johnny Black:

Quote:
I'm the world's worst drummer. I was trying to teach Bill a drum beat and the reason I couldn't was because it just didn't work. But as I was teaching him this drum beat he started playing this guitar part that turned out to be "Untitled". Mike walked in and started playing it. We couldn't learn each other's parts, so we cut it that way. It was a struggle, because I can't keep a drum beat to save my life!"
I believe the song went uncredited on the original LP, and that fans had started calling it the "11th Untitled Song".
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Old 03-11-2010, 04:09 PM   #64 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJ567 View Post
Green seems to be my least favorite of the major label albums they put out before Berry left the band. Maybe I should give it more of a listen because it is really a pretty good album. I agree with your review for the most part.
I think it's a real grower. I listened to it a few times right before reviewing it and my opinion radically changed from that when I listened earlier.

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Originally Posted by Burning Down View Post
The review of Green is spot on. Here's an interesting thing Peter Buck said about the development of "Untitled" in Reveal: The Story of R.E.M. by Johnny Black:

I believe the song went uncredited on the original LP, and that fans had started calling it the "11th Untitled Song".
On my 1988 vinyl copy of Green, it's listed as simply "Untitled." Not sure about the CD version.

That's a great story though. I always thought there was something off about the drums in that song.
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Old 03-20-2010, 06:14 AM   #65 (permalink)
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With the help of your very knowledgeable guide I`ve decided to listen to everything by R.E.M once again, as they were always a band that I never really warmed to before, this guide has now gotten me to see them from a very different perspective, so here is my opinion on their albums:

Chronic Town (EP):A great intro to the band with its jangly and rather upbeat feel.

Murmur: Radio Free Europe was always a song that I liked from before, but could never quite get into the debut album before this recent listen and really appreciate it like so many people do. Its very different to "Chronic Town" as on the one hand the style of sound is there, but instead of building off the EP the group seem to go more into themselves, making the whole thing sound vague and impenatable at times but also with an air of mystique. Its this sound, that now makes this album for me a classic after countless previous listens.

Reckoning: Its here the group now go back to the initial sound of Chronic Town and build off this. It has a more upbeat and accessible sound than Murmur and its on this album that I really get to hear the sound of each individual memeber of the band in their full glory, in many ways this could be the definative album by the band, again a classsic album.

Fables of Reconstruction: I read this was a dividing album amongst R.E.M fans, what makes it interesting, is that they changed their recording habits for this album and went to the UK to record an album based around the history of the deep south! Strangely enough, this was an album that I liked from before. It has a very accomplished feel to it and also contains some very endearing songs, but despite all this brilliance, I`m still undecided weather its as great as the previous two releases or in fact it could be better!!! As you say its a very deep album that gives over to a lot of listens to try and find its true genius.

More updates as I dissect the R.E.M beast

Last edited by Unknown Soldier; 03-20-2010 at 06:23 AM.
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Old 03-20-2010, 12:14 PM   #66 (permalink)
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Good to hear that somebody's benefiting from this thread, Unknown Soldier. I look forward to your analyses.

The next review will be one of R.E.M.'s live Tourfilm DVD, recorded over the Green Tour in 1989 and released the following year. I'm off to Jamaica tomorrow so the likelihood of that review being completed before then is slim at best.

In other R.E.M. related news, the Feelies, who reunited in 2008, are touring the east coast again! Better yet, I'm seeing them tonight here in Connecticut. I'm super excited for that, as I've heard they're fantastic live.

Cheers
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Old 03-20-2010, 02:23 PM   #67 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rickenbacker View Post
Good to hear that somebody's benefiting from this thread, Unknown Soldier. I look forward to your analyses.

The next review will be one of R.E.M.'s live Tourfilm DVD, recorded over the Green Tour in 1989 and released the following year. I'm off to Jamaica tomorrow so the likelihood of that review being completed before then is slim at best.

In other R.E.M. related news, the Feelies, who reunited in 2008, are touring the east coast again! Better yet, I'm seeing them tonight here in Connecticut. I'm super excited for that, as I've heard they're fantastic live.

Cheers
It's been awhile since I've seen Tourfilm. I recently saw parts of Road Movie, the one they made around the time of Monster.

Have fun in Jamaica!
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Old 03-21-2010, 05:27 AM   #68 (permalink)
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Fables of Reconstruction is still lingering in my mind..................so I think that says something about its quality.

Lifes Rich Pageant-A return to the more upbeat formula of Reckoning and again as you`d expect by these four album veterans, another very accomplished bit of work. I know from looking at reviews of this album and from hardcore R.E.M fans, the vast majority of them, seem to view this album as the bands best ever work!!! Despite seeing its quality, its probably my least favourite of the first four releases. When I listened to this my version had some extra tracks on it and one was an excellent cover of the Aerosmith song "Toys in the Attic"

Document-A lot seems to be made of this album, the last with the original label and their first foray into the commercial market proper and the sound on this album typifies that. Agree with Rickenbacker that Mike Stipes vocals having been pushed to the forefront and the instruments of the band pushed into the background, and for this reason the group lose a lot of their unique magic. Instead the band lose that signature poppy/jangly sound giving over to a more rock orientated sound, to compensate for these negatives though, the songs are superb and for this reason I would still give this album as somebody else suggested an 8.

Its about this time that that R.E.M broke big time into the UK market, I remember it.
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Old 03-29-2010, 11:36 PM   #69 (permalink)
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About time I got this started again.

Tourfilm
Released 1990
Warner Bros. Records



That better not be styrofoam, pal.

In support of their first major label record, R.E.M. embarked on their first world tour in 1988. Shows on the Green Tour found the once-unknown Athens Georgia band playing stadiums and selling out arenas for the first time. This change in scope would force the band to take a different approach to performing live, and noticeable changes in the band's confidence and playing ability can be observed on this film, known simply as Tourfilm, which documents an arena show from 1989. The tracklisting and more, after the jump.

1. "Stand"
2. "The One I Love"
3. "So. Central Rain (Detail)"
4. "Turn You Inside-Out"
5. "Belong"
6. "Orange Crush"
7. "Feeling Gravity's Pull"
8. "These Days"
9. "We Live As We Dream, Alone/World Leader Pretend"
10. "Poem: I'll Believe In Anything When I'm There.../Future 40's (String of Pearls)/I Believe"
11. "I Remember California"
12. "Get Up"
13. "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"
14. "Pop Song 89"
15. "Fall on Me"
16. "You Are The Everything"
17. "Begin the Begin"
18. "With the People"
19. "King Of Birds"
20. "Low" (Detail)
21. "Finest Worksong"
22. "Perfect Circle"
23. "After Hours" (credits)

Tourfilm opens with a bang. Before the foot tapping organ riff of "Stand" comes in, the listener hears the roar of a massive crowd cheering on their favorite band. Incidentally, this caught me off guard. Because of this project, I've been listening to R.E.M. chronologically. Before I popped in the audio CD of Tourfilm, I had effectively begun to think of R.E.M. as anyone else might have in 1988. I imagined R.E.M. playing small bars and clubs across the country, not stadiums and arenas. When the thundering roar of the crowd came in, that all changed.

Tourfilm finds R.E.M. at the very moment at which their career was about to take wing. Listening, I find that the reason R.E.M. was the most successful of the college rock bands was that they were willing to adapt and change. While contemporaries The Feelies were breaking little new ground with "Only Life" (1987) and Pylon had all but given up hopes of a new record, R.E.M. was refocusing their talents, turning up the megaphone, and blasting awesome new music to a new world audience.

Rarely does the band look back. The only song from Murmur performed here is the beautiful Perfect Circle, and while So. Central Rain is represented, it is merely a segment of the song. Rather, R.E.M. uses Tourfilm as a vehicle to document their moving forward. A demo version of the Out of Time (1991) classic "Low" is present, as well as a performance of the much maligned "Belong", which would later appear on the same album. Personally though, I think the song is pretty good, especially this live version, free from any overproduction.

With this forward thinking attitude, the band really shines on Green/Document Era classics such as the anthemic "Orange Crush." Prefaced by a sarcastically sung "BE ALL THAT YOU CAAAAAAN BE... IN THE ARMY", the band launches into this upbeat song with a certain visceral energy. Not the immature punk energy of a band just getting on its feet, but rather the channeled energy of a band with a purpose and a proven method of conveying their message. As the drums pound and Buck's dirty riff repeats, Michael sings into a megaphone while the crowd whoops and shouts like a machine. The performance is perfect, and the message is clear. R.E.M. were ready to truly take on the world.

For Document songs like Finest Worksong, the mixing problems present on the studio versions are cleaned up, and more energy is put into them, revealing the true quality of the songs, and their place on the live stage.

As a stadium rock show, many of the songs performed on Tourfilm are more upbeat, up-tempo numbers. While these are nearly all well done, with the exception of the mediocre performance of "Stand", some of the best moments appear on the lighter side of the show. Prefaced by a poem, the countrified World Leader Pretend rings beautifully onstage. Similarly, Fall on Me and You Are the Everything are played with serene beauty not usually found at shows the scope of Tourfilm. Even the organ-led Murmur classic Perfect Circle sounds fresh and beautiful.

That said, the best performance has to be that of the epic "Feeling Gravity's Pull", the nightmare inducing song from Fables of the Reconstruction. Peter Buck's guitar tone is as haunting as ever, and as the song picks up, the band leaves their comfort zone in a way that was only then possible. Even the gorgeous bridge section shines brilliantly amidst the jagged-edged verses.

All in all, I would argue that Tourfilm lacks cohesion if only it weren't so damn awesome. Many of the songs sound even better here than in studio, which is saying something, given R.E.M.'s usually excellent production. A great live film/record.

Key Tracks: "Orange Crush", "Feeling Gravity's Pull", "We Live As We Dream, Alone/World Leader Pretend"

(for the audio only)

9/10

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Old 03-30-2010, 12:24 AM   #70 (permalink)
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Great review, I thoroughly enjoyed the read and the video. Being a half-assed R.E.M. fan like I am, I should probably own this, but I don't. Although I own most of their albums, this has somehow eluded my collection. But thanks to your review, it is now on my shopping list.
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