R.E.M.’s ‘Document’: The Story Behind Every Song
On its predecessor, Lifes Rich Pageant, R.E.M. brought in John Mellencamp producer to remove the murkiness that had categorized their first three records. Although Gehman was not brought back for the follow-up, Scott Litt built upon Gehman's clarity, and the result was a radio-friendly sound that brought them into the Top 10 singles and album charts for the first time.
It helped that R.E.M. had delivered a collection of songs that matched the tenor of the times. Its first half reflected their anger at the previous six years of Ronald Reagan's presidency. Beginning with an activist's call-to-arms ("Finest Worksong"), they blended U.S. involvement in Central America ("Welcome to the Occupation") with the return of right-wing political tactics ("Exhuming McCarthy," "Disturbance at the Heron House") before coming to the conclusion that they were fine with the impending apocalypse ("It's the End of the World as We Know It").
But it was the second side where they kept up their experimental streak. Opening with a hit single ("The One I Love"), albeit the darkest, thorniest love song to reach the Top 10 since the Police's "Every Breath You Take," the rest of the album dealt with an eighteenth century religious figure ("Fireplace"), the ability to predict earthquakes ("King of Birds") and homelessness ("Oddfellows Local 151").
Read About Every Song on R.E.M.'s 'Document'
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