Out of Time
R.E.M. dropped the serious, moody atmosphere that pervaded their 1980s albums, and shot to mega-stardom on the back of Out Of Time, a lighthearted and acoustic album. It’s more diverse than anything else the group have done, and it’s probably one of R.E.M.’s more divisive albums – there are plenty of strong tunes, and it’s well produced, and plenty of people love it, but I often find it lightweight and inconsistent. The group bring in a lot of outside musicians; rapper KRS-One guests on ‘Radio Song’, while The B-52s’ Kate Pierson sounds great harmonizing with Stipe on ‘Shiny Happy People’ and ‘Me In Honey’. Peter Holsapple, formerly of The dBs, augments the band with guitar and bass parts on many of the songs.
On a lightweight album, it’s probably not a coincidence that the best song is also the darkest lyrically: ‘Losing My Religion’, where Stipe famously declares “Life is bigger than you/And you are not me.” Elsewhere, pretty songs like ‘Near Wild Heaven’ and ‘Texarkana’, both with Mike Mills on lead vocals, are successful, and I even enjoy the pop fluff of ‘Shiny Happy People’. But there are throwaways – the rap on ‘Radio Song’ makes for a gimmicky opener, and the instrumental ‘Endgame’ and ‘Belong’ feel inconsequential.
There’s an argument both ways for Out Of Time – it has some nice tunes and it’s fast moving and entertaining, but I find it too insubstantial to be a favourite.