In the grand scheme of their career, R.E.M.’s sixth studio album has somewhat faded into the background. Released in 1988, it fell between their final days as an independent act with the much revered Document and their transition to one of the biggest bands in the world with Out Of Time and Automatic For The People. Yet, while it may have not been on repeat in some households (this one included), this latest reissue is proof that absence has made the heart grow fonder and proves that the record sits comfortably amongst what both preceded and followed it.
It bridges the musical gap nicely too, finding the band facing major label life with typical bloody-mindedness and setting out to record an album without any R.E.M. type songs on it. While in hindsight the mix of rock with acoustic instruments and softer sounds would become something of a trademark, Green did mark a major step forward for the four piece. Those styles weren’t quite ready to mesh together however, with the record divided between the louder guitar numbers (‘Pop Song ’89’, ‘Turn You Inside Out’) and the more experimental ‘You Are The Everything’ and ‘The Wrong Child’. The two elements did come together on ‘World Leader Pretend’, a song worthy of inclusion on any career retrospective. At times playful (‘Stand’), at others as angry as you’d expect an album released on the day George Bush Jnr was voted President to be, Green captured a band whose time was about to come.
That feeling is enhanced by the second disc of the set, Live in Greensboro 1989. Recorded on the penultimate night of the Green tour, it’s pretty much the only live R.E.M. document that you’ll ever need. Perhaps their last hurrah as a live force (it would be six years until they would tour again on the back of the patchy Monster album, a trip that would leave them on the verge of disintegration), it includes the pick of their then new material alongside older gems and even a couple of tasters from Out Of Time. Peter Buck is in full flight, Michael Stipe still juggling his old, enigmatic persona with the demands of a larger audience and Mike Mills’ harmonies holding it all together. At the time, it was hard to believe that they could get much better. That they did – in the studio at any rate – is one of rock’s great stories and Green is a vital chapter.