These days the signing of a much respected alternative / indie band to a major label is met with trepidation from the band’s established fans. Some will accuse the band of ‘selling out’, others will simply fear that they will receive wider exposure and thus no longer feel as exclusive and special to them. To this day there are some R.E.M. fans that lament the fact that they ever signed to Warner Bros. Records, and that refuse to entertain the notion that anything they released after Document is worth listening to.
This is of course very silly.
Green found Mills, Berry, Buck and Stipe with a major label and a significant amount of budget behind them, and you know something? It’s a really enjoyable album. Okay, it no longer had the exclusive indie credibility of their earlier work, but in its place there was a clarity of purpose. The Athens quartet were now blazing a trail for alternative rock acts to upsize their recording contracts and potential audiences. Without R.E.M. signing to Warner Brothers, the last 30 years of American alternative rock would have been very different, especially when you consider that Nirvana probably wouldn’t have signed to Geffen Records if R.E.M. hadn’t already proved that an alternative act could sign to a major label without losing credibility.
30 years after its release and Green is now an album worth of reinvestigation, especially as it falls between their retrospectively critically acclaimed work on I.R.S. Records and the commercial breakthrough Out of Time and world-beating Automatic for the People. While not an album with a strong unifying identity, regardless of its two sides being dubbed ‘Air’ and ‘Metal’, Green is loaded with a whole host of great alternative rock numbers. “Get Up”, “Stand” and “Orange Crush” are numbers that any rock band would be happy to have penned, “Hairshirt” is straight up pretty, and “World Leader Pretend” might very well be my all time personal R.E.M. song.
Green is the R.E.M. album that has been sort of left to gather dust in a corner because it wasn’t released during their ‘cool’ indie period, and was released prior to them becoming a global phenomenon. As a result it’s one of the R.E.M. albums most likely to surprise you and remind you just how great even their least regarded work was, at least until Bill Berry upped sticks. And that makes it really cool.