Document started to garner R.E.M. some mainstream attention – they scored major radio play with ‘The One I Love’, ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ and ‘Finest Worksong’, and secured a major label record contract for their next album. But while it was successful, Document marks the end of the group’s most consistent phase, and it’s less enjoyable than its predecessors. Part of the problem is sequencing – it’s very strong for the first seven tracks, but gets more esoteric for the last few tracks.
The three obvious singles are all enjoyable; ‘The One I Love’ is one of Stipe’s most charmingly oblique lyrics: the “this one goes out to the one I love” verse fits in so seamlessly with the “fire” chorus that the lack of sense doesn’t matter. ‘Finest Worksong’ is stuffed full of hooks, while ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ is fun and subversive. I don’t enjoy the cover of Wire’s ‘Strange’ as much as the original, but there are solid album tracks like the bouncy ‘Exhuming McCarthy’ and ‘Disturbance At The Heron House’.
Document isn’t necessarily much weaker than Lifes Rich Pageant on a song by song basis, but as a whole it is far less accessible and cohesive.