Sunday, January 09, 2011

Blast from the Past: Out of Time


Title: Out of Time (Amazon, AllMusic, Last.fm, Wikipedia)
Artist: R.E.M. (Official, MySpace, Facebook, Last.fm, Wikipedia)

My three favorite records by R.E.M. are Out of Time, Document, and Lifes Rich Pageant (the specific order may change a bit depending on my mood). Of the three, Out of Time was the one that I got to experience as it happened. I was a sophomore in high school when Out of Time hit the stores and it wasn’t too long after its release that I got a copy and it became a mainstay in my tape deck. From that moment I was a fan and went out and got as many of their other albums as I could find (and afford on my allowance). I also taped as many of their videos as I could and recorded their amazing performance on MTV Unplugged.

Out of Time was the album that really sent R.E.M. into the mainstream. Prior to that they had a couple of hits with “The One I Love” and “Stand” but it wasn’t until this record that they became a recognized, household name band. It was also their first album to reach number one on the Billboard Album Charts. And subsequently it was the first album for which the band was labeled “sell outs” in earnest. But none of that changes the fact that this is an exceptionally powerful record.

What makes Out of Time such a great record isn’t its hit singles. In fact, I would argue that the songs “Shinny Happy People” and “Losing My Religion” are two of the weaker tracks on the album. It’s songs like “Country Feedback,” “Belong,” “Me in Honey,” and “Half a World Away” that pull the listener in with haunting melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Bassist Mike Miles also takes the mic for the tracks “Near Wild Heaven” and “Texarkana” adding another dimension to the record.

For me this record represents a time and place of new exploration and growth in my life. A lot of the person that I’ve become was set into motion during those years in the early ‘90s and records like Out of Time were a constant soundtrack to my life at that time. But aside from all of my own personal history, baggage, and preference towards this album and band, Out of Time is a record that not only defined an era but remains timeless in the quality and heart of the music.

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