Green was R.E.M.’s major label debut for Warner Brothers, bringing them into the mainstream. Unlike R.E.M.’s I.R.S. material, Green doesn’t feel like a coherent album – I think of Green more as a collection of songs, some strong and some dispensable, although generally tuneful. The group’s use of acoustic instruments like mandolin and accordion probably felt surprising in 1988, coming after a pair of rock based albums, but R.E.M. recorded better acoustic songs on their subsequent albums.
The material is hit and miss; ‘Turn You Inside-Out’ is essentially an inferior rewrite of ‘Finest Worksong’, while ‘Hairshirt’ is pretty, but drags. The single ‘Stand’ is catchy, with nice organ from Mike Mills but feels like a throwaway. There’s plenty of good material -‘Orange Crush’ is an excellent single, ‘I Remember California’ is haunting, and ‘World Leader Pretend’ is a pleasant, contemplative acoustic song.
It’s a mixed bag, but R.E.M. made the transition to a major label with relative grace and ease.