Tuesday, March 8, 2011

out of time

The best little indie band from Athens, Georgia hit their tipping point with the uncommon love songs of 'Out Of Time'. R.E.M. took a year off after the extensive tour supporting 'Green' to recuperate and reflect on their success thus far.

"I had to grapple with a lot of contradictions back in the 80s," recalls Michael Stipe. "I would look out from the stage at the Reagan youth. That was when REM went beyond the freaks, the fags, the fat girls, the art students and the indie music fanatics. Suddenly we had an audience that included people who would have sooner kicked me on the street than let me walk by unperturbed. I'm exaggerating to make a point but it was certainly an audience that, in the main, did not share my political leanings or affiliations, and did not like how flamboyant I was as a performer or indeed a sexual creature. They probably held lots of my world views in great disregard, and I had to look out on that and think, well, what do I do with this?"

When they returned to the studio, they further diversified their sound to include strings, keyboards, and mandolin. They also brought in numerous guest musicians and vocalists.

Peter Buck looks back: "I was playing with a lot of Athens folk musicians and the Normaltown Flyers, and that totally influenced the way “Out of Time” ... I was more used to sitting on porches playing acoustic guitars and playing more folk songs and country songs than I was playing big places, and it definitely affected that."

"We feel like ever since our first record we've been doing things a little differently than most other bands," remarks Mike Mills. "We came out with a guitar record in 1983 when everyone else was playing synthesizers. We feel like right now there are very few people making this sort of music; so “Out of Time” means that we're doing things our own way. We think that maybe in five years everything else will sound like this."

'Losing My Religion' became the band's highest charting single in the US, peaking at number four on the pop chart and topping the Alternative and Mainstream Rock charts. The album went to the top of the album charts in the US and the UK, a first for the band.

"Every whisper
Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up"

Mills sings lead vocals in the lush 'Near Wild Heaven' that evokes the sound of the Byrds and the Beach Boys.

"I'm holding my hands together
I'm holding my feet together
I'm holding myself together
In this near wild heaven
Not near enough"

'Shiny Happy People' was a top ten hit in the US and the UK. It features Stipe and Mills trading harmonies with Kate Pierson of the B-52's.

"Meet me in the crowd
People people
Throw your love around
Love me love me
Take it into town
Happy happy
Put it in the ground
Where the flowers grow"

Stipe takes on the perspective of a mother in 'Belong', which he insists "is not a song about defenestration.”

"Those creatures jumped the barricades
and have headed for the sea
She began to breathe
To breathe at the thought of such freedom
Stood and whispered to her child, belong
She held the child and whispered
With calm, calm; belong"

The acoustic 'Half A World Away' evokes homesickness and regret.

"Oh, this lonely world is wasted
Pathetic eyes high alive
Blind to the tide that turns the sea
This storm it came up strong
It shook the trees
And blew away our fear
I couldn't even hear"

Mills wrote the lyrics and took up lead vocals again for the sweeping travelogue of 'Texarkana'. Even though it was not released as a single, it charted at number four on the Modern Rock tracks chart.

"Walking through the woods I have faced it
Looking for something to learn
30,000 thoughts have replaced it,
Never in my time to return"

The haunting pedal steel electric wash of 'Country Feedback' evokes Neil Young.

"We've been through fake-a-breakdown
Self hurt
Plastics, collections
Self help, self pain,
EST, psychics, fuck all"

Kate Pierson duets with Stipe for the anguished sense of a relationship dissolving in the album closer 'Me In Honey'.

"Knocked silly
Knock flat
Sideways down
These things they pick you up
and they turn you around
Say your piece
Say you're sweet for me
It's all the same to share the pain with me
It's all the same, save the shame for me
Left me to love
What it's doing to me"

'Out of Time'

full album:

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe.

Side one – "Time side"
"Radio Song" (feat. KRS-One) – 4:12
"Losing My Religion" – 4:26
"Low" – 4:55
"Near Wild Heaven" – 3:17
"Endgame" – 3:48
Side two – "Memory side"
"Shiny Happy People" – 3:44
"Belong" – 4:03
"Half a World Away" – 3:26
"Texarkana" – 3:36
"Country Feedback" – 4:07
"Me in Honey" – 4:06

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