As I continue my search for the “perfect” R.E.M. album, we get a little closer to that ideal state with 1988’s “Green”. I would sum up this album by saying that it is a battle between the rocking, up-tempo tracks and the slower, softer acoustic tracks. While R.E.M. has created some beautifully soft music over the years, the rockers definitely win the day on this album.
The first three singles released from this album are all really strong tracks. “Pop Song 89” opens the album, and is one of my two favorites here. It has that driving force and curious but thoughtful lyrics from Michael Stipe that signify a good R.E.M. track, and the same can be said for “Stand”, another rocker on the lighter side of their catalog. I love both of these songs and they have only grown on me over the years.
The third big hit on this album is “Orange Crush”. It is a damning song about the usage of Agent Orange for chemical warfare in Vietnam, where Stipe’s father served. It is a darker and angrier tune, but still very powerful in its melody and delivery. The fourth single, “Get Up”, wasn’t quite as well received and understandably so, but I still prefer it to most of the mandolin-based ballads I will touch on next.
There are multiple tracks like “You Are The Everything”, filled with mandolins and airy sounds, that you want to like, but there just isn’t a catchy hook and they sit there, with the end result being me just looking forward to the next song. I would put “The Wrong Child” in the same category. “Hairshirt” has a more compelling melody, but it definitely falls into the category of, “What in the hell is talking about?”
Of the other tracks, I liked “World Leader Pretend” and “Turn You Inside Out”. Both have great guitar work from Peter Buck and Michael Mills always adds to the illuminating sound with his bass and his high-tenor backing vocals. They keep getting closer and closer to a truly great album, with several more classic songs that fill the catalog with great tracks across their run of albums.
Before I wrap up today’s blog, I’d like to give a shout-out to my friend Scott, who has been one of my biggest supporters during this entire process. He’s going through one of those tough moments we all have to face at some point in our lives, and as a way of letting him know I’m thinking of him, I’d like to dedicate an R.E.M. song from another album, “Everybody Hurts”. We love you Scott, thanks for being one of the very best…