Release Date: Nov 18, 2016
Record label: Universal
Genre(s): Alternative Pop/Rock
After an Eighties spent as the most critically revered band on the planet, R.E.M. finally became global superstars with 1991's Out of Time and its extraordinary lead single 'Losing My Religion'. It wouldn't last: the following year's Automatic for the People would push them further into the critical and commercial stratosphere . But their huge new audience - and much of their old one - would be flummoxed by the uncompromising, experimental follow-up records Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi and Up, and while the band remained popular, the duration of their actual superstardom was probably only really four or so years, from the release of 'Losing My Religion' to the end of the troubled Monster tour.
It was probably overstated, but a few years ago the podcast 99% Invisible made a provocative argument for R.E.M.’s Out of Time as the most politically significant album in American history—not for its content, but for its packaging. The band, the story goes, was wary of releasing the CD in a longbox, the superfluous cardboard packaging that compact discs came in during the format’s early years, so an idealistic Warner Brothers executive pitched them on the idea of putting that wasted packaging to use. The back of the box would include a Rock the Vote petition lobbying senators to support a bill enabling citizens to register to vote at DMVs or through the mail.
In 1988, REM released the first LP in their multi-million dollar deal with Warner Bros. Lurching from chemical weapon critiques to ironic dance routines, the major record label must’ve wondered what they’d bought. Where once were chiming Rickenbackers and frat-friendly anthems, now sat mandolins, Keith LeBlanc on percussion and a publicly declared intention to “not write any more REM-type songs”.
In 1991, R.E.M. released the album that cemented their status as the former college radio favorites who became, for a few years, the biggest band in the world. With the help of producer Scott Litt, who also produced their 1988 Warner Brothers debut Green, and the hit lead single "Losing My Religion," the album became a smash. Months before Nirvana's landmark Nevermind was released, it was instrumental in helping to expose the masses to underground music.
25th anniversary for R.E.M.’s alt-rock breakthrough For long-haul fans of R.E.M., 1991’s Out Of Time was something of a sideswipe. Gone was the cryptic murk and slanted oddness that had defined much of their 80s output, replaced instead by bouncy white funk, guest rappers and bright, rootsy melodies. This new-found uplift chimed with the wider public, the huge success of ubiquitous single Losing My Religion turning R.E.M.