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The Haul: R.E.M.'s Green and S. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)

R.E.M. – Green LP – Warner, 1988 – $5

R.E.M.'s Green

Green feels like it should be a double dip, considering how many times “Pop Song 89,” “Stand,” and “Orange Crush,” but I never got the CD growing up and I’ve somehow avoided pulling Green out of an LP dollar bin to this point. I blame the insistent “Stand”: a cheery pop song that might be more enjoyable if I hadn’t heard it a thousand times on MTV and the radio growing up. (I had to stop myself from going on a lengthy tangent on how long it’s been since I’ve listened to FM radio for music.) “Stand” isn’t nearly as irritating as “Shiny Happy People,” but the song’s key change and escalation of its circular lyrics are best avoided.

Perhaps I’d put too much stock in the singles being stylistic barometers for Green, but the album features little of the perkiness of “Stand” or the R.E.M.-as-U2 seriousness of “Orange Crush,” and reasonable doses of the polished hooks of “Pop Song 89.” In short, it sounds more like an IRS-era R.E.M. album than I expected, just more open, less closed-off. “Turn You Inside-Out” comes the closest to the machine-gun strafing of “Orange Crush” with its hard rock overtones and reversed reverb on the snare hits (a decidedly ’80s production trick I could live without). “Get Up” follows up lead track “Pop Song 89” with a similar dose of energetic rock. The most evocative songs on the album do a tricky double move—sounding larger than their IRS predecessors and yet still intimate among their immediate surroundings. “You Are the Everything” is an emotional, minimal folk song that expands their bounds without reaching “Everybody Hurts” universality. “I Remember California” is a downer of a rocker, lacking the angst of “Orange Crush” or the pep of “Stand,” but it still feels big. The untitled closer features an instrument swap between Peter Buck and Bill Berry (according to Matthew Perpetua’s write-up on Pop Songs), which might explain why the song feels so delightfully off-the-cuff.

Green isn’t particularly cohesive, especially on the second, “Metal” side, which veers between arena rock, intimate folk, and college rock too wildly. I would certainly enjoy “Hairshirt” more if the cringe-worthy titular word weren’t part of it. “Turn You Inside-Out” is Monster forced. I’d love to tie these flaws together into a thesis on how R.E.M. crumbled under the pressure of their major-label debut, but increase in scope isn’t the biggest issue. Green simply has some weak material weighing it down, which could’ve happened on any label.

26. R.E.M. – S. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) EP – IRS, 1984 – $5

R.E.M.'s S. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)

Considering that I haven’t given the proper attention to a number of the proper R.E.M. albums—a few of the good ones, too, not just the post-Berry albums—buying a 12” EP for Reckoning favorite “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” is a bit of a curious move, even by my standards. (Don’t expect this to turn into a R.E.M. Discographied feature: Matthew Perpetua already wrote about every R.E.M. song and I have no interest in hearing Reveal or Around the Sun.) Much like a few New Order and Joy Division singles I’ve picked up, I simply liked the cover art.

”So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” is a superb song, featuring Michael Stipe’s elliptical storytelling in the verses and the spare, emotional “I’m sorry” chorus. His wordless vocals on the outro are downright harrowing—not something I’d expect from the lead single on an album, but wonderfully evocative in their own way. The b-sides are amusing enough, if non-essential. “Voice of Harold” is an alternate take of Reckoning’s “7 Chinese Brothers” with alternate lyrics. Those lyrics? The liner notes to a gospel album laying around the studio. It gets genuinely funny when Michael Stipe assumes a dramatic, almost Elvis-esque affectation, but it’s not likely to get funnier with more listens. A pleasant cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” finishes off the flip. I wish I could compare it to the original, but I’ve never gotten into VU. Someday I’ll sit down with their albums and truly absorb them, but for now, it’s just another note on my musical to-do list.