There’s an ambition on Green that’s not always present on their earlier albums.
Sid Smith 2007
Having parted company with their indie roots after taking the big-buck deal offered by Warner Bros, REM punted away the from their natural comfort zone painstakingly articulated across a string of eclectic albums since their debut in 1983. Enjoying rising popularity not only at home but increasingly in Europe, they took up with producer Scott Litt (who had raised the bar on the preceding album, Document) to make their first real swing at the big-time.
Recorded over an eleven week period, whilst the majority of REM’s trademark elements are in place, there’s also an ambition on Green that’s not always present on their earlier albums. Perhaps it’s being in the company of clear-cut stompers such as “Pop Song 89,” with its Doors-like tease, or the message-laden “Stand”, calling for a raising of political awareness at a time when the American Right were on the ascendant. Certainly the megaphone diplomacy of the booming “Orange Crush” left nobody in doubt that REM were moving up into the big league.
The commodious and well-lit spaces of Green stand in stark contrast against the moody, atmospherics of old, though there are some stylistic carry-overs. The prog-rock dirge of “I Remember California” bears gloomy witness to a world losing itself in a blur of accelerating change. How they themselves coped with their increasing visibility was also an area of concern. Ascribing any definitive meaning to a Michael Stipe lyric is fraught and foolish, though “World Leader Pretend” whilst being about the remoteness of our political classes also ponders on how fame erects barriers that are both irksome yet, in some ways, necessary.
Green is not quite the sell-out some REM die-hards would have you believe but it was the point at which the discreet manifesto previously pursued became writ large. A bigger sound made more explicit than ever before, Green pump-primed the world for what would become Athens’ biggest export.