Out of Time
This records starts out promisingly but degenerates into tunelessness that makes for a rather dull listen. I'm judging these songs mostly on the guitar parts, because R.E.M. really is a guitar band. The rhythm section is tight but unimaginative, and while Michael Stipe's voice is pleasant, his obscure lyrics are an acquired taste that I haven't. So that leaves us with Peter Buck, by whose guitar this band lives or dies.
"Radio Song," its lyrics and the presence of KRS-One notwithstanding, has lots going for it. I'm not such a big fan of the ringing arpeggios at the intro, but the contrasting distorted riff against the funky chords in the middle section is very cool. "Losing My Religion" unfortunately has a mandolin as the main point of interest. Mandolins are great if you're Bill Monroe; if you're R.E.M. then the guitar is your best bet. "Low" seems to built on the assumption that the listener will find slow organ chords much more interesting than I do. After that I kind of drifted off and stopped paying attention. I will say that I really did get enough of the open D-major arpeggio, though. Try something - anything - a little different! D minor, D7, Dsus4? What the hell, even Guns n' Roses know those chords! How about an F#?
In addition, "Belong" spawned the awful Shawn Mullins hit, "Lullaby." Eech.
I did like "Endgame" the first eight times I heard the motif. After that I got restless. Also, I think Stipe and Mills sing together very well. They should do it more often.
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