R.E.M. - Out of Time
1967 was one of the most important years in the development of rock and psychedelia. A sequence of masterful albums released at a dizzying pace, shaped the map of world music. The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", Pink Floyd's "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", Cream's "Disraeli Gears", Hendrix's "Are You Experienced", and "Bold As Love", The Doors' debut album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico" and more, redefined Rock genre and changed the world of music forever.
24 years later, an equally important musical revolution takes place. 1991 was one of the most important years in world's music, the year when the alternative became mainstream. It was a call of an entire generation growing up in the eighties and crying out for a change, which came big time, with the start of the new decade.
R.E.M.'s "Out of Time" album was one of the first to be released in that amazing year that brought the wind of change to the music industry, and it is the first of the "Class Of 91" series of reviews.
So to understand the revolution that took place in that historic year, one has to go back a little bit of time.
In order to understand the revolution that took place in that historic year of 1991, one needs to go back in time a bit to the beginning of the 80's.
In the 1980s the music industry was split in two: On the one hand, there was the mainstream world, where the pop and rock stars stood out. They received vast airplay on commercial radio channels and repeated broadcast of clips on MTV. It was the world that ruled with big money and fame. On the other hand, in a parallel universe, there was a poor industry of "alternative music" - a category that at the time included everything that was not mainstream. Punk, Funk, Metal, Industrial, Indie and more. It was an underground world of pirated, low-budget radio stations, shabby recording studios and underground cassettes. These two parallel worlds were so different and polar that no one could have imagined that they could be bridged.
But in 1991 everything changed ....
In the late 80s underground music become more and more popular. It all started without any assistance from the media and commercial radio stations. Continuous performances by "Alternative" bands, flyers and street ads helped spread the word - Generation X has taken over the music world!
Early in it's career R.E.M. was considered an "underground" band, which in the early-80s was not really accepted in the mainstream music industry. But things changed as the decade was coming to an end. R.E.M. Released five critically acclaimed albums between 1983-1987, but did not manage to break through the glass ceiling of the "alternative" world to commercial success. However, in 1988 the band was signed to the major record label Warner Bros. Warner was the first to recognize the impending change in the world of music and in the same year also signed Jane's Addiction on record contract. In doing so, R.E.M. And Jane's Addiction were the first alternative bands to be signed to a major label, thus starting the great revolution that will be completed 3 years later.
The 4 young men of Athens Georgia took full advantage of the chance given to them by Warner, and in 1988 produced their most commercially successful album, up to date - "Green". The album released singles such as "Orange Crush" and "Stand", sowing the seeds for what would come three years later with the album "Out of Time", one of the first alternative albums (it's a bit strange to define it that way today) released in the amazing year of 1991.
The band entered the studio to record "Out of Time" after a planned one-year break, the first since its inception. This break was due to a tremendous attrition of the band members who were exhausted after a long and tedious tour that accompanied their album "Green".
On the one hand, "Out of Time" is a direct continuation of the unique combination of alternative-pop-rock-folk from "Green". On the other hand the band made a conscious decision to write the songs using instruments that are not inherent to the rock genre. The same musical instruments will also find their way into the recording studio and will enrich the musical diversity of the album. In this way, Peter Buck's mandolin became a more dominant instrument than it was on the previous album and bassist and singer Mike Mills further enriched the range of instruments he plays, with a variety of keyboard instruments, such as piano, organ and more. In addition, the band was assisted by outside musicians who added a variety of strings and brass instruments to the album.
And if that's not enough, for the first time the band was assisted by guest singers such as KRS-One, who performs the rap part in the opening song "Radio Song" and Kate Pierson from the "B-52", who is featured in three songs: "Near Wild Heaven", "Shiny Happy People" and "Me in Honey".
Four successful singles were released from the album, led by the hit "Losing My Religion", which "burned" the radio stations and especially the MTV, with the famous clip that could not be missed. This song, which began with guitarist Peter Buck's failed attempt to play the mandolin, will overnight cn "R.E.M." as one of the great and successful bands of the 90s.
The next single is the Poppy and sweet "Shiny Happy People", which included Michael Stipe's famous (and some say notorious) duet with Kate Pierson, with the bouncy and colorful video clip. After releasing this single it was already clear, "R.E.M." managed to break through the glass ceiling and complete the metamorphosis that transformed them from a mediocre alternative band to a formidable mainstream giant that fills stadiums.
And there was "Near Wild Heaven" where Mike Mills takes the lead, singing the duet with Kate Pierson, and the fourth and final single - "Radio Song" - the opening track from the album which included a collaboration with rapper KRS-One.
More then 30 years have passed since its release, and it appears that the real magic of "Out of Time" is found in songs that have not become big radio hits, and will form the bridge to the magic that will take place on the band's next album - "Automatic for the People". Songs like "Half a World Away", "Texarkana" and "Country Feedback" just sound more and more special as the years go by.
"Out of Time" will mark the beginning of the flood of alternative albums that will change the face of the music industry and conquer "mainstream". This album will reach top charts, both in the United States and the United Kingdom, spending 109 weeks in the American charts and 183 weeks in the British chart. The album sold about 5 million copies in the United States alone and over 18 million copies worldwide. It has won three Grammy Awards, one of them for "best alternative music album".
For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music.