Athens in Georgia’s U.S. state wasn’t exactly known as the Mecca of rock music until the early 1990s. But that should change fundamentally. Responsible for this was a band that by that time had already released numerous records successfully. Rapid Eye Movement or R.E.M. for short called, were the heroes of American indie rock and had won a large audience at the country’s universities. But in 1991, the band rose from the depths of indie rock and became the most successful group in the world.
A few before that, the band had switched to a major label and had celebrated success. But Out Of Time was to usher in a new era. After years of touring across the U.S.A., the band also wanted to break new ground musically. The last 130 concerts after the album Green had taken their toll. Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry felt exhausted and decided not to go on tour with the next record. Instead, it should stick with a few acoustics and radio sessions. This decision had a massive impact on Out Of Time. R.E.M. turned to pop music driven by mandolin and strings. The success of the predecessor gave them the time to turn to new ideas. Most of the record was recorded in 1990 and released in 1991.
It was a significant artistic step forward. The band turned the expectations one had of their sound into the opposite. Mixing it gets timeless sounds with rap, folk, organ sounds and strings. Unlike before, love became the dominant theme. The first two singles showed the new direction. While in the U.S.A., there was a bet on Shiny Happy People; in Europe, there was Losing My Religion. Singer Michael Stipe later stated that he only wanted to write a new version of Every Breath You Take by The Police with the latest R.E.M. classic song.
The exercise seems to have been successful; today, we mainly associate the band’s name with this super hit. The band’s record company initially didn’t want to release Losing My Religion as a single because they saw no potential in it. But the band prevailed and subsequently stormed the charts worldwide. Shiny Happy People received at least as much criticism. The happy pop song didn’t want to fit in with the group’s well-known sound. Nonetheless, it also became a hit. Seldom has the band been exuberant, as in the joint video with singer Kate Pierson from the B-52s.
The two hit singles covered numerous great songs that buyers only gradually discovered for themselves. Radio Song, Low or County Feedback, the declared R.E.M. favourite song by singer Michael Stipe, all make up the record’s appeal to this day. Out Of Time marked a turning point in the history of the band. From this point on, they were among the biggest stars of the emerging alternative scene, which a few later literally exploded in the charts with Nirvana and Pearl Jam’s success.