Review’s of R.E.M.’s first big label album and also their first misstep
By Carter Bagley
Eventually, no matter how great you are, if you’re an indie band and you want to become huge you must sign to a major label. If you don’t you’ll simply fade away into a whisper and be remembered mostly as the band that influenced the artist that did sign. So naturally R.E.M. decided to make that decision and look where it led them. There were no shortage of fans who condemned the band for their decision and judged their major label debut before it even came out. So since it’s released this album has carried this slight stigma about it. From my experiences people either seem to really enjoy it or completely shun it and I must say I’m not either but I’m more on the side of the former. It’s defintiely not great however I’d still say it’s a solid record it just doesn’t compare to their earlier albums and for most other bands “Green” would be remembered in a fonder memory. The record starts off with the songs “Pop Song 89” and “Get Up” which are two pretty similar songs and kind of blend together. “Pop Song 89” has some decent enough lyrics and despite being slightly jumbled it’s a delightful enough album opener. “Get Up” feels the same in tone but it’s definitely catchier and radio-friendly than most of the bands other songs. “You Are The Everything” is a bit cliche but is still very sweet in its delivery and Michael Stipe does good with charming vocals. Track 4 “Stand” actually surprises me by how big of a single it was or how it was a single at all. It’s very cheesy and marketable I guess which was all that mattered for late 80’s pop music. It’s an enjoyable tune for what it is but it gets on your nerves and if you’re not a fan of R.E.M. this is not the song to change your mind. By this point the album definitely isn’t bad it’s just not the same R.E.M. the band once was. The first four songs are nice and not challenging but that’s all they are, though this changes with track 5 “World Leader Pretend”. It really is a fantastic gem mixed in with this studio pop album and contains intelligent lyrics and a contemplative regretful demeanor about it that has always impacted me. “The Wrong Child” however is really not a very good song. The first minute is pretty annoying with lyrics that sound almost like tumblr quotes now that I’m looking back on it but it kind of wins me over towards the end of it solely because of Stipe’s wailing vocals. What makes it even more awkward is that it’s sandwiched right in between the albums best two songs “World Leader Pretend” and “Orange Crush”. The latter was the biggest single on the record and it’s a nonsensical yet fascinating and catchy lyrics mixed in with it’s good production, memorable backing vocals and moody lead guitar guarantee this song as an alternative rock staple. The next track “Turn You Inside-Out” is total filler but I still find myself enjoying it every time I give this album a listen. It has very 80’s guitar riffs that sound dated and kind of comes off as a half-assed effort from the band but it’s still a song I wouldn’t skip if it came on unlike others on the record. “Hairshirt” on the other hand doesn’t fall under that same category. It sounds like songs the band made later in their career like “Nightswimming” or “At My Most Beautiful” although done with much less skill than those, it’s still enjoyable at some parts though it just makes me want to listen to those songs now. Track 10 “I Remember California” really irritates me when it comes on every time as it’s just a reminder on how less they seemed to be applying themselves for this album. The lyrics and the instrumentation are both repetitive and the vocals are lazy. Bill Berry’s percussion isn’t bad however and may even be the only redeemable aspect of the song. The albums ends on a high note though with the song “Untitled” as it’s short and sweet and Michael Stipe’s vocals build on top of themselves and the background vocals also take a much more prominent step forward. Peter Buck gives a lovely and snappy lead guitar and it fades the album away on a high. The name of the song and the placement in the tracklist almost guaranteed this song would get overlooked which is quite a shame. “Green” is a worthwhile effort and even the bad songs weren’t as much bad as they were just uninspired. “Hairshirt”, “The Wrong Child” and “I Remember California” have potential and aren’t cringe-inducing , they’re just boring and that idea seems to encompass the entire record despite a few songs.
Highlights: Pop Song 89, World Leader Pretend, Orange Crush, Turn You Inside-Out, Untitled
Lowlights: The Wrong Child, Hairshirt, I Remember California