When an R.E.M. song pops up on my iPod, I typically skip it. I picked up the album in the early 90s because, who didn’t? The radio singles were so catchy and you couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing Michael Stipe’s arms flailing around and bald head spinning to “Losing My Religion.”
While revisiting Out of Time, I remembered how much it influenced my taste in music. It opened my ears to other types of music beyond hair-sprayed, glam metal. Thanks to Out of Time, I went back and discovered bands from the 80s I had previously ignored, like Peter Gabrielle, Devo, and Men at Work. R.E.M. is why I am open to more alternative bands today like Fitz and the Tantrums, First Aid Kit and The Bleachers.
Individually, the songs don’t have the same effect as listening to the entire album. Maybe that is why I have been skipping the singles in recent years. I never paid much attention to the lyrics on Out of Time. But I was, and still am, enamored by the tone and composition of the album. Old school R.E.M. fans typically think Out of Time is over-produced, but I am not an old school R.E.M. fan and definitely not a fan of their earlier work.
Nearly every song on the album starts simple and slowly adds more instruments to create amazing full, well rounded sounds. Each song flows to the next. The album opens with “Radio Song,” which could have been the band’s best work if they if they had forgone ripping off Blondie’s “Rapture” by ending the song with a rap. The refrain’s orchestral tones blended with the rock influenced verses, gives the song a heavy feel with amazing balance and range. Out of Time also provides a nice instrumental intermission with “Endgame.”
The second half the album starts out a little rough for me. While “Shiny Happy People” was a huge hit, I always thought that song was dumb and mocked my anxiety ridden teenage years. Shiny happy people don’t exist; the song is too farfetched and optimistic for me to ever like it. Unfortunately, the band tries to make up for the unsubstantial “Shiny Happy People” by following it with an attempt at depth in the song “Belong”. However, the song just comes across as dumb coffee shop poetry.
For this revisit, I paid close attention to the lyrics and rediscovered “Texarkana” and realized it really resonates with me. It explores one of my favorite themes of never giving up. As Stipe explores his failings, he doesn’t quit. Instead he soldiers on and cries for support, “catch me if I fall.”
I always found R.E.M. a little weird and I’ve never been impressed with their politically driven albums. The songs on Out of Time explore relatable themes and the orchestral interludes mixed with rock, folk and pop sounds drove R.E.M. out of cult status. While I may not have particular memories tied to any R.E.M. song, I do have strong feelings and memories tied to the songs and bands I explored because of R.E.M. and that’s why after nearly 25 years, I still really enjoy Out of Time.
Joy’s Jam Scale (Click here to see a description)
Sing along ability
Want to request an album for Joy to revisit on “Joy’s Jams?” Email Us!