on May 31, 2004
The fourth R.E.M. I have owned really was a different one. The three preceding ones I owned (Auto, OOT and Hi-Fi) all have complex, moody songs (ignoring the likes of Shiny Happy People, obviously)... but this cd is all about catchy, radio friendly tracks, and they're guaranteed to put a smile on your face, even if half of the tracks aren't too good...
The two opening tracks, Pop Song 89 and Get Up, are both fun pieces of pop... I love them both. They're catchy and they'll stick in your mind, and if you're not into overly complex songs, these will have you hooked.
Stand and Orange Crush, the two main singles of this album, are certainly very catchy, though it may alarm some fans of the IRS days (as this is a VERY big swing from, say, Fables...) But I'm sure even they are grinning whenever they play Stand!
World Leader Pretend is awesome, period. This is the best track on this album, and it should have got more recognition. I also love the heavier Turn You Inside Out. There's not much to not like about this album...
Except the remaining tracks didn't really appeal to me, they seemed a bit dry. Maybe it's because they're not bouncing off the walls like the other songs, but still, You Are The Everything just annoyed me for some reason, and The Wrong Child just leaved me uninspired. The last three tracks are good, but they just don't compare to the better songs this album offers.
So what I'm basically saying is that half of this album is great... fantastic even, if you're into the happier, poppier stuff. But half of the tracks just don't really cut it for me.
Well, try it out. It's definatly a good album that's worthy of purchase (especially when you consider how cheap it is to buy these days), but be sure to pick up their higher rated albums first, before jumping straight into the Green.
on May 27, 2004
Ok, I didn't read all 89 reviews, but...
It seems that a great many reviewers have missed several points about this album. A dash of context and a little hindsight might help. First, of all, if you are familiar with Mr. Stipe, then you know how much interest he has in Andy Kaufman, having produced "Man On the Moon; " another of his film productions is "Being John Malkovich." Stipe is interested in the cult of celebrity and a type of channeling various/varied personalities, a loss of self to some social "other".
Green's disparate songs and lyrical "personalities" fit these tendencies. Stipe has always been inward and obtuse; his newfound "outwardness" is a mask--it's him trying on these different personas. He denounces cultural social graces and indifference by channeling vapidity right on the first song, "Pop Song 89"...
Then he goes on to channel the political aspirant ("World Leader Pretend"), the handicapped ("Wrong Child"), the narrow-minded and politically oblivious ("Stand"), military leaders ("Orange Crush")--almost all in the first person. What he controls, rather brilliantly, is how these personalities are perceived: the "stupid pop songs" are clearly cultural parody, but others are more genuine in their tone ("Hairshirt"). "World Leader Pretend" is really one of his best--a non-topical political commentary (hard enough to do by itself, really) that reveals insecurities and questioning beneath the bravado.
He tried it again--stylistically, without as much social commentary-- on Monster...
And that's Agent Orange "covering" the "green" on the cover.
Remember what it was initially used for?
on May 2, 2004
If you look at the stock market, even during bearish times, it peaks and valleys a bit.
R.E.M.'s album quality is akin to this -- if you line graphed it, with the midpoint being average, all of their albums would come in above average. However, there a couple that, while good, definitely lag behind the others.
"Green" is one of those. While I think I'd actually give the album 3.5 stars rather than just three, I'd say that "Green" represents a dip between "Document" and "Out of Time." It certainly has a few great songs, my favorite being Orange Crush, a song that holds up very well to this day.
But the quality of the album is uneven. There are few songs on "Green" that really don't move me one way or other, which is unusual when it comes to R.E.M. Also, I agree with those who've said the pacing of the album is odd -- I don't really like the interspersing of slow with up tempo here.
Since R.E.M. has set such high standards for itself, "Green" can come across as a disappointment in some ways. Yet it is hardly a bad album (it beats quite a few other bands' best efforts) and it does give hints of what's yet to come in subsequent R.E.M. albums.
on October 26, 2003
I read somewhere that Michael Stipe at one time refused to use personal pronouns in his lyrics; no "I" or "me," no "you," none of that. Well, he damn sure changed his mind, especially on this release. In so doing, he taught us all a lesson about powerful songwriting, but he didn't necessarily do himself any favors.
See, there are two kinds of songs on "Green," straight ahead pop songs and more artsy sorts of offerings. The boundaries between the two get real slim (this being R.E.M.), but they're there. And it's on the "stupid pop tunes," as the band members called them (Pop Song 89, Get Up, Stand) that those personal pronouns work. The songs have definite beats and drum lines, short phrases and simple lyrics. They say things like "I think I can remember your name," "Your head is there to move you around," "I believe in what you do," lyrics that carry an interesting load of meaning but don't give the musicians too much time to indulge themselves. Rock music is, after all, at its best when it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.
Other songs drift. You can't just count "1-2-3-4" and end up on the same beat you started with. Cuts like "The Wrong Child" and "Hairshirt" require several listenings before you can really get what these guys are up to.
Which wouldn't be so bad - in fact, some of these tunes are among the most beautiful R.E.M. ever laid down - except that on many of these cuts, Michael Stipe turns completely inward and sings exclusively about himself, like the State of Michael Stipe was of overwhelming interest to you and me. "I've a rich understanding of my finest defenses," "I'll try to sing a happy song," "I am not the type of dog that could keep you waiting for no good reason"; notice how long those lines are? There's no rhythm to them, and not much rhythm to the songs they come from, either.
My point is that, if a band is going to play that kind of music, it turns out to be a bad idea to give it self-involved lyrics. Apparently, we need something more interesting than one man's mental state to hold onto if we are not to have rhythm, structure, and melody. Stipe is one of the most interesting stars that rock music has ever produced, but even he can't sustain that kind of self-indulgence for this long.
So, you may ask, why the heck am I giving this record five stars? Let me put it this way; a few years after this, R.E.M. released some soundcheck video that showed Michael Stipe watching the other three play a few tunes to set volume levels. When it was done, he got on the microphone and said "You guys are great; if I was a fan I'd really like what I was hearing." Then he chuckled a little and said "I might have a little trouble with me, but I'd really like you three." As that comment suggests, this record works because Michael Stipe is cautious about his artiest tendencies; he instinctively knows when to shut up, even if he doesn't always do so.
And, even when he climbs too far up his own rear, he's got the other three to yank him out. He's got Peter Buck with his usual mastery of everything from grunge to fingerpicking, plus some mandolin experiments this time. He's got Mike Mills leading everyone with his bass lines and filling in the holes with some really interesting keyboards. He has Bill Berry providing exactly the right drum part for each moment through some combination of experience and inspiration. He's got Mills and Berry inventing backing vocals that he has to work to keep up with. Yeah, Michael Stipe's got all the support he could ever need, and several times it laps him.
That's why the five stars; not just for the great music, but for what it means. And what it meant. "Green" came out just at the start of George Bush Senior's administration and tackled themes like the need for peace, courage, love of nature, generosity. None of these were easy to come by at the start of yet another right-wing presidency, especially for young leftists like these guys. And on top of that, "Green" was R.E.M.'s first major label release, doubling the pressure. So Michael Stipe got a lot of press attention for his various antics on and offstage. Lesser men might have jumped right off the ego mountain at a time like this and taken their whole band down with them. Not this bunch.
Benshlomo says, For God's sake get some partners; you're not as independent as you think.
on April 6, 2003
Its' title is very contemporary for 'Green' came at a time when concerns about the environment were finally having mass impact.
In typical curveball REM fashion, the colour of the sleeve is not green but orange. Song 7, of course, is Orange Crush which is about the serious concern of Vietnam. But this album, like most REM albums, is a curious hybrid- 'Orange Crush' could also refer to the unashamedly youthful, sweet, 'pop' sensibility of some of REM's inspirations- California, the 60s and its simple, direct political protest slogans: the dreamy 'Get Up' and the practical 'Stand'. Sandwiched between these two is 'You are the everything', which oscillates between present concerns for the world and the sureness of the past with the riff of a mandolin.
But any wrongly held suspicions that the casual listener might hold of nostalgic naivety on the part of REM is shot to nothing by 'World Leader Pretend', a song about one man's power and stupidity and its wider implications.
Following this is the simply beautiful 'The Wrong Child' that seemlessly takes so many musical directions. Haunting piano melodies seep through Michael's lament about a boy who has 'never been' outside. Careful observers might draw comparisons with World Leader Pretend who doesn't seem to have spent much time out of his political office.
'Turn you inside out' could have been put on Monster without any incoherence but, again, it's about how much power a leader wields, whether he be a rock star or politician- Stipe continues :'I can swing my megaphone' on Hairshirt, which follows the delicate instrumentation of the earlier 'You are the everything'.
As for the other songs- Pop Song 89 is a bit clunky and not their best song ever but it works when placed next to Get Up. I Remember California reminds me of 'You' off Monster- it's dark and not the most comfortable song to listen to. That's probably why it's one of Michael Stipe's favourite songs on the album!
To all the hardcore REM fans who think that this, their first Warner Bros. album, smacked of selling out I would just like to say that if REM are a sell out band then we need to redefine the word 'sell-out' for all the true sell-outs who never had anything to sell. In a simple phrase, this album is full of pathos and political statement mixed with a bit of fun.
As well as a full stop to the eighties and the beginning of REM on the Warner label, REM's subsequent albums would experiment even more radically within their own world. A wonderful album that marks a calm before the storm and the beginning of a new optimism.
on March 13, 2003
"Hello, I know you, I knew you, I think I can remember your name...name"
This album is a curiosity. It is half-filled with pop confectionery and half-filled with some mysterious some politico-serious intensely layered fare. This was the debut album with Warner Brothers and one of R.E.M.'s best-selling albums to date. In it is portent of the next two albums to come...the uneven pop-throw-off of Out of Time and the acoustic brilliance of Automatic for the People.
Out of all of R.E.M's records I own it is probably the second to last of ones I relisten too...bringing up the rear would be "Out of Time." With that said though, the artistry of R.E.M. still make it better than most out there.
The nod to pop sensibilities don't stand up to time so well with songs like, "Pop Song 89", "Get Up", and "Stand" which seem to border on the slightly annoying more so than the timeless. But songs like "World Leader Pretend", "Orange Crush" and "Turn You Inside-Out" are some of the band's best works. "World Leader Pretend," is densely layered with the interplay between Stipe and Mills voices blended beautifully together, "It's amazing what devices you can improvise, this is my mistake, let me make it good." Very apropos of the cold war world politics of the times.
"Wrong Child" is delightfully odd. For some reason the voice of this song reminds me of a John Travolta Boy in a Bubble perspective..."I'm not supposed to be like this, but it's OK." I don't know if this has struck anyone else the same, but it's oddly alluring and lends the song intrigue. "I Remember California," is a bass line led mood piece..."lumberboys and girls with tans."
Half of this album is brillance with depth the other half seems to be surface pop...but with that non-throwaway R.E.M. sound. Turn to "Automatic for the People," "Life's Rich Pageant," or "New Adventures in Hi Fi." if you're new to R.E.M. but if your a die-hard fan don't pass on Green.
on December 18, 2002
I can see how so many people love "Green" (and, to be honest, my actual opinion is 3 1/2 stars for this one). It has many moments of luminous atmosphere and swimming melodies. But, I have to say I think this is R.E.M.'s weakest effort ("Monster" has always been terribly underrated). Of course, there is no "bad" R.E.M. album-their worst can usually stand in for any other band's best-there are just "lesser" R.E.M. albums. And "Green" is lesser than "Automatic for the People", "Murmur", "Out of Time", and "Document". Many of its songs, especially the wandering "The Wrong Child", just go around and around and don't end up anywhere (think "Drive" only times 10). This album is a strange anomaly in that the big popular songs on it are probably the best parts, not usually the case on a work from R.E.M. "Pop Song 89" is a friendly, opening gesture with a great chorus and continues R.E.M.'s awesome ability to open up their albums well. "Stand" always brings a smile to my face, despite its simpleness (this is where the "going 'round and 'round" method works). And the music video is great too. "Orange Crush" is one of the best songs R.E.M. has ever written, period. Of the non-hits, "Hairshirt" and "World Leader Pretend" are the strongest. "Hairshirt" is a melancholy and beautiful ballad with a heartfelt tinge of regret and pathos-and that's a lot to say about a song about a dog (I think it's about a dog at least). "World Leader Pretend" is actually the best song on the album and probably in the band's personal top 10. Centering around a powerful (and possibly corrupt) leader who is aware of his shortcomings and imminent downfall, "World Leader" is one of the most mature and elegiac songs on any R.E.M. album. So, there are more ups than downs on this one, but overall the impact isn't as great as some of their other works. Pick up "Automatic", or "Murmur", or "Out of", or "Document", or "Reckoning", or any of this band's other masterpieces before going out for "Green".
on May 6, 2002
This was a transitional album for REM- not only were they making the change from indie-label artists (with IRS) to major label artists, but they were also in the process of changing their sound. For the first time, we hear mandolin as the lead instrument on the songs "You Are the Everything", "The Wrong Child", and "Hairshirt"- three of the album's best and most poignant songs. In the midst of all this change, however, we end up with a rather uneven album- some great songs, some pretty good songs, and a couple that are not so good. "Document" had been a hard rocking, sometimes harsh sounding album. Here they maintained some of the high noise level while adding on some catchy hooks and pretty harmonies on "Bubble gum heavy metal" songs like "Get Up" (the first REM song with clear Beach Boys influence, plus music boxes for a bridge!), "Orange Crush" (a great rocking tune, sounds a bit like U2) and, less interestingly, "I Rembember California". The album ends on an upbeat note with an untitled song which is quite catchy.
on March 8, 2002
An enlightening and loose and joyous album, "Green" is the sound of a band finding itself and its way after umpteen nights in crowded bars and gymnasiums, blasting melodic cheese through busted amps and PA's, trying to build the Eiffel Tower with toothpicks. Now on Warner's, REM finally had a recording budget to match their grandiose dreams, including a one-world sensibility and optimistic populist/environmentalist political agenda (oh, the joyous late 90's), and the results are musically, lyrically, and melodically successful on every level.
"Green" (a much better album than the soon-to-follow "Out of Time", in my opinion) flaunts songs with great staying power, songs that I put up there with the best REM songs (since determining their "best" album is perpetually a worthless endeavor). Take "I Remember California" and its sprawling, earthy tick-tock rhythm back and forth between two low-down minor chords, and Bill Berry's floor-tom drumming, sounding stately and funereal (God I miss him). Then the synths come in, turning the whole load into an atmosphere piece, conjuring up images of that smarmy state and its endless malls and housing developments, its wide sky and oceanfront view. A nice, underrated episode from the REM songbook.
Of course, at the time, it was upstaged by the bona-fide "hits" on the album, which work too, and the more stirring, "different" tunes ("The Wrong Child" and "Hairshirt" being a few of their initial forays into acousticland). It's good to recall how powerfully electric this folk-rock outfit had become at the time, and that these first few attempts at acoustic beauty are all the more startling and child-like now that they have become more commonplace on their albums. I like "Green". I like how it oscillates between acoustic and thunderous rock, and I even like the globally-conscious messages which at the time seemed heavy-handed and forced. "Green" is the sound of a band making its sound, and getting wider and wiser.
on January 31, 2002
It's no accident that "Green" is sandwiched in time between R.E.M.'s most demanding album ("Document") and their most accessible ("Out of Time"). In every sense it is a transitional product, marking the band's movement from parochial to global perspectives and from rock to pop.
The last word of the preceding paragraph may enrage some of the band's fans. But before you hit the "No" button, please let me clarify. I'm not comparing R.E.M. with the here-today-and-thankfully-gone-tomorrow pop that fills the singles charts, but rather with the thankfully-here-for-ever classic pop of the Beatles and Phil Spector (in other words the universal riverbed of pop, of which rock is only a sub-set). R.E.M. were actually stretching the unyielding envelope of rock from 'Radio Free Europe' onwards, but by the time of "Green" such narrow genre boundaries were no more than a plaything in their inquisitive hands.
The transition is appropriately marked by several traits that are now considered to the quintessential hallmarks of R.E.M.'s career, but which really made their first substantive appearance on "Green". All of these traits have their roots in a new found artistic self-confidence that expresses itself as a quantum leap in both vision and technique:
1) Experimentation with new sonic textures.
2) Willingness to risk alienating the established fan-base.
3) A typically post-modern playfulness with musical genres that simultaneously honours and subverts the band's own influences.
Some commentators of course claim to see these traits in the band's earlier work, but very few of these could offer conclusive evidence that they were interpreting the earlier stuff that way at the time it first appeared. It is an easy and excusable mistake to read back into an artist's earlier work insights that emerged at a later date, and I believe that to be the case here. In other words, however good the early albums were (and for me, they include some of the band's best work), they have been largely reinterpreted by critics and established fans in the light of more recent statements.
This leaves "Green", in historical terms, in a rather similar position to "Murmur": A ground-breaking album, not universally appreciated but with a massive cult following, that acted as the springboard for an entire phase in the band's history. Indeed, the last two albums ("Up" and "Reveal") have successfully opened up to deeper exploration several musical motifs that had their genesis in the "Green" sessions.
Of course that sort of historical significance doesn't necessarily make an entire album rewarding to listen to on its own terms, and when I first got my copy home I wondered if I'd made a mistake buying it. However it grew on me by leaps and bounds, and of all R.E.M.'s classic cuts it is now the one I return to most often.