Chamber pop doesn’t sell. And yet, when R.E.M.—after 10 years of grassroots groundwork—made its big leap to household-name status in 1991, the band did it with Out Of Time, a bright, gentle album filled with string sections, horns, keyboards and mandolin.
Oh yeah, the mandolin. Sometimes, the album’s massive hit single “Losing My Religion” can still retain an eerie, haunting power. Other times, it sounds devoid of any real meaning anymore, thanks to 25 years of oversaturation. That’s kind of the weird thing about R.E.M.’s seventh album. The band could fill a song with seemingly just the right amount of pop hooks. But two of the hookiest songs (“Shiny Happy People” and “Radio Song”) sounded woefully dated within a year of release.
So you probably won’t find any R.E.M. diehards who consider this its best album. But it just might be ripe for rediscovery. The back end contains some real gems: “Half A World Away,” “Texarkana,” “Country Feedback” and “Me In Honey.” The bonus disc of demos on this reissue is noteworthy but not particularly essential. (A deluxe edition also contains the band’s full ’91 performance on the NPR show Mountain Stage, as well as a Blu-ray disc of videos and hi-res and 5.1 audio.) This was a significant era for R.E.M., albeit one in which it often came off a tad too earnest much of the time. As 1991 albums go, Out Of Time in its own way is as era-defining as Nevermind, Loveless or Spiderland.