REM: Document (25th Anniversary Edition) – album review

REM: Document (25th Anniversary Edition) – (Capitol/I.R.S)
Out: 25th Sept

On September 25, R.E.M. will release the next reissue in their line of 25th anniversary editions, for 1987’s Document. Katie Clare gives us a quick review of the album below.

On September 21st 2011 REM issued an amicable, simple message.

“To our fans and friends: As REM, and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.”

This message brought REM to an end after 15 albums and 31 years of intelligent, liberal alternative rock that made it’s way from college radio, indie clubs to the charts and a mainstream audience.

A year on and as part of their continuing 25th anniversary reissues, it is time for 1987’s Document to get the treatment, which will be available as a re-mastered two-disc set containing a number of extras.

Peter Buck’s guitar grinds out a mechanised wave, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry creating a complementing melodic rhythm over which Michael Stipe confidently yowls “The time to rise, Has been engaged”. Opening with ‘Finest Worksong’ could be no capricious act, taking things to the next level should be the albums unwritten tag line, they certainly opened it with a declaration of intent.

The anti love song sentiments of ‘The One I Love’ work in partnership to the anarchic subversive nature of ‘Fireplace’ even the albums single cover Wire’s ‘Strange’, which at the time felt quite removed from the bands usual style, finds it’s self in a suitably shaped space in which to fit. It is the mixing of styles, techniques as well as sentiments and affirmations that make this the perception changing album it is. One of the most commercial tracks ‘It’s The End of The World As We Know it’ is a gem: a joyfully catchy melody, a danceable rhythm, singable radio friendliness and yet it undulates with lyrical dexterity of global cataclysm, self created melodramas and less than whimsical dream like fantasies ~ it drips with REM signifiers.

Anthemic statements of fiery intent are build around moments of textural emotion, and catchy pop-rock songs that are lyrically layered. With hindsight it is no surprise that Document took them to much wider audience, it was built on solid foundations with a rebellious spontaneity, after 25 years it still feels relevant and fresh despite some of the political commentary and the additional live performance included on a second disc is a gloriously juicy bonus, the remastering offers up perceptibly crisper production values although I find I hanker after my original version for the less cavernous atmosphere the remastered version seems to have.

I have heard it said that despite an iconoclastic career post Document, in terms of creativity and musical relevancy REM should have released their self penned epitaph in 1987, with such a tremendous album it’s understandable but is far too damning, right? Right?

The 25th Anniversary edition of Document is release on September 25th. Below is a recording of Peter Buck’s introduction to the album recorded in 1987 for attendees of the New Music Seminar.


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