R.E.M. - Out Of Time reissue album review

25th anniversary for R.E.M.’s alt-rock breakthrough

Cover art for R.E.M.'s Out Of Time

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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.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.