This was the first REM album I listened to and , although I have listened to all their subsequent albums and Document, Life's Rich Pageant and Green before it, it still remains the most pleasurable. Like most REM albums, it has multiple meanings but it has generally come to be regarded as their 'love' album. This effect is partly achieved by Kate Pierson's warm and lively presence on tracks like Shiny Happy People and Me in Honey. To me, this album sounds like a lost summer, the mandolins and baroque instrumentation mourning loss of love, loss of lots of things. Automatic for the People would wallow more blatantly in nostalgia on Man on the Moon and politics in Drive and Ignoreland and twisted the tunes even more than Country Feedback was threatening on OOT. Their ultimate twisted album to come was Monster, that picked up where Automatic's Star Me Kitten left off.
So Out of Time is a lot of things- KRS-One's funny, ironic rap that makes you think (Radio Song) a sunny surf/road album (Near Wild Heaven, Texarkana), a baroque meditation (Losing my religion, Endgame, Half the World Away), and something inbetween (Shiny Happy People). The likes of Low and Belong sound ancient and tribal, a perfect counter-evolution of the Beach Boy style harmonies. But there is nothing simple about the thought processes behind this album- it takes a lot of intelligence, a lot of avant-garde thinking, to sound this upbeat yet this sombre. Michael Stipe's warm, resonant voice is recorded in digital while the instruments are recorded by analogue. The cover art and inside sleeves are, Green to some extent aside, clear and attractive for a change. Natural images of plant-life and the ocean are juxtaposed with their treatment- rendered in artistic photography, cut up, their colour changed and reinstalled like the marble steps and peep show images displayed in the sleeve's cartoons. The album looks lovely, the sound is crystal clear and it resonates with that sense of being revolutionary yet innocent that fully emerged, blinking in the summer of the very early nineties, from the likes of The La's, The Stone Roses and, in their own, more directly destructive way, Nirvana. To any ordinary band, this would be, undisputedly, their finest moment, but REM, almost unique amongst the majority of bands, have always had the intelligence and staying power to evolve on their best ideas. A work of genius.