by Joseph Sarrington Smith
Today sees the release of the 25th Anniversary reissue of ‘Out Of Time’ by R.E.M., their seventh studio album originally released in 1991. The release will feature videos (including studio and performance footage), interviews with all four band members as well as the album’s producers and bonus tracks (demos of previously unreleased tracks and non-album B-sides).
This album has always been special to me. We had it on tape and it was one of the first albums I heard as a child that wasn’t aimed at children! It all sounded so interesting and different! And so began my respect for R.E.M. and my fascination with music. The band had released some great material in the 1980’s, and ‘Out Of Time’ would continue the folk/classical music heard on their previous album, ‘Green’, with a new direction towards country music which would be explored further on their next album, ‘Automatic For The People’.
The album contains two of their most well known songs, ‘Losing My Religion’ and ‘Shiny Happy People’, both released as singles. But there are also tracks of subtle beauty and these I think are the most effective. For me, this album showcases Stipe’s lyrics at their most personal, introspective and ambiguous:
“Dusk is dawn is day
Where did it go?
I’ve been laughing
Fast and slow
Moving in a still frame
Howling at the moon
Morning found me laughing
Up and down, down”
So sings Stipe on ‘Low’, featuring a mournful string section and bass clarinet. It might just be the most haunting track on the album. Here’s the equally haunting video:
Then there’s ‘Country Feedback’, where Stipe’s vocals go from downbeat crooning to desperate pleading. Stipe once mentioned during a concert that it was his favourite R.E.M. song.
Meanwhile, ‘Endgame’ is a lovely little instrumental and a perfect slice of Americana. It never fails to make me think of my childhood.
But my favourite track on the album is ‘Half A World Away’:
“This could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle, high-alive
My mind is racing, as it always will
My hands tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away here
And I had sworn to go it alone, hold it along
And haul it along and hold it”
I think it’s one of their most touching songs; in fact I think it’s perfect. Furthermore, the addition of the harpsichord was an inspired touch, it never fails to make me smile:
Yes, as you can tell, this album means a lot to me. But you should check out this re-issue if you’re an R.E.M. fan, or even if you know nothing about them. It’s a perfect introduction to a great band.