Thursday, May 4, 2023

REM #6: Green

Release Date: November 7, 1988

Members: Michael Stipe (vocals); Peter Buck (guitars); Michael Mills (bass, keyboards); Bill Berry (percussion)

Produced by Scott Litt & REM

Side One: Pop Song 89; Get Up; You Are the Everything; Stand; World Leader Pretend; The Wrong Child

Side Two: Orange Crush; Turn You Inside-Out; Hairshirt; I Remember California; Untitled

Green would be the final REM album of the 1980s, a decade whose sound the band played a big role in shaping. Coincided to be released on day of the 1988 Presidential Election between George Bush and Michael Dukakis (REM campaigned for Democratic candidates), Green marked where the band had been and where it was going as the '90s beckoned.

Originally intended to be one half electric and other acoustic, the record waltzes between radio friendly numbers, social commentary, and introspective acoustic numbers. "Pop Song 89" comments on Gen X dissonance as the '80s were closing, bolstered by Peter Buck's melodic guitar hooks. "Get Up" is the most playful number on the record, an ode to indolence reminiscent of Lennon's "I'm Only Sleeping" with some Beach Boys harmonies added in for good measure.

"You Are the Everything" channels Walt Whitman with its embrace of experience, the closest REM comes to straight up love song. "Stand" channels '60s bubblegum pop and self-help mantras, becoming a hit single. "World Leader Pretend" may be told from the perspective of someone with power who feels powerless in a wonderfully sublime and evocative track. In contrast, "The Wrong Child" is mostly acoustic, told from child's perspective who feels like an outsider.

"Orange Crush" is a more direct song dealing with the use of toxic Agent Orange by the American military during the Vietnam War. "Turn You Inside-Out" is about power and relationships, metaphorical on many levels, Stipe sings with a sarcastic edge. "Hairshirt" meanders a bit, an emotional examination of another power relationship. "I Remember California" is conniving and cryptic. "Untitled" ends the record on a reflective note.

Green has a sense of weariness and circling introspection that somehow makes it less accessible than previous REM albums even though it's full of catchy tunes.

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