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. from alt-rock avatars into mainstream heroes as Out Of Time sold over four million copies in the US alone.
Yet it remains a curiously uneven listen. Shiny Happy People still feels like an irritant, while the Turtles-y Near Wild Heaven is pleasant at best. By contrast, the muted baroque of Low and the anguished beauty that seeps from the heart of Country Feedback – so intense in the live arena that Michael Stipe often sang it on his knees, with his back to the audience – are classic examples of the band at their moody, mysterious best.
This expanded reissue (there are three different formats) includes a disc of album demos, the pick of which are a churning, acoustic version of Radio Song and an urgent, impassioned Texarkana that outstrips its official counterpart. There’s also a curious early pass at Me In Honey (here titled Me On Keyboard), Stipe feeling his way through the song with nonsense lyrics over a churning organ.
The deluxe edition, meanwhile, comes with a 1991 in-concert set from West Virginia’s Mountain Stage radio show, the band joined by guests that include Billy Bragg and Robyn Hitchcock.