...the one that launched them into the stratosphere.
Lou Thomas 2007
REM’s career arc serves as a neat reminder to record labels ready to drop low-selling bands. Out Of Time was the Athens, Georgia band’s seventh studio album and the one that launched them into the stratosphere.
It took two colossal hits in ''Shiny Happy People'' and ''Losing My Religion'' to boot the enigmatic foursome from the US college rock ghetto into the blinding light of pop superstardom, but the rest of the LP is also a rewarding listen.
''Near Wild Heaven'', sung by bassist Mike Mills, is a glorious, good-time blast of sunshine that recalls both The Cure in a light mood and The Byrds. It’s like looking out of your window and seeing a perfect sunflower nodding at you in the summer breeze. ''Endgame'' on the other hand is an almost instrumental stroll down an auld English bridle path, assisted by mandolin and flugelhorn. But does this make the band court jesters?
Surpassing both of these is the almighty, desert thunder of ''Country Feedback''. It strolls into town on a tide of yearning pedal steel and exquisitely crafted feedback, like Neil Young sanding down Noah’s ark. If it was a man it’d wrangle horses and wear a cowboy hat, full of regret. When frontman Michael Stipe croons 'It’s crazy what you could have had', it’s hard not to sigh.
Unfortunately, there are other reasons to sigh. It’s a shame ''Low'' is so dreary and muted, like lethargy set in during recording. And ''Radio Song'' seems like a missed opportunity at this distance – why get then-massive rapper KRS1 to join you in the studio and then barely use him until the tune’s fade?
It’s certainly great but whether OOT is essential is down to which side of the fence listeners sit on regarding ''Shiny…'' and ''Losing…'' The truth is that both can be monumentally annoying in the wrong mood, but both are undoubtedly classic pop songs, the former as bright and fun as a day at the zoo, the latter a powerful string-drenched, mandolin-powered grapple with life, love, loss and belief. Between them the two sparkling 45’s provide the most accessible moments on the record, itself a brilliant jumping-off point for REM novices.