Green, released in 1988, is the sixth studio album by American Alternative Rock band R.E.M.. The album was their first to be released through Warner (Bros.) Records, onto whom the band signed out of dissatisfaction towards the dismal international distribution of their work by their previous label, I.R.S. Records; while other labels offered the band more money, only Warner Bros. guaranteed total creative freedom, which R.E.M. adamantly prioritized.
Still, the move from an independent label to a major one drew controversy among the alternative crowd, who accused R.E.M. of selling out. Combined with the band's furthering of the poppier sound they had been developing since Lifes Rich Pageant, Green became something of a dividing point among fans, some of whom choose to ignore everything the band put out after this album— sometimes lumping it in with its successors.
Regarding the album itself, the sound continues the shift to more commercially-accessible music, albeit throwing in a more self-aware and sarcastic angle towards it, and refines the harder style first developed on Document. The mood is overall dour and the lyrics emphasize both sociopolitical and environmental themes; fitting this, the album was released directly to coincide with Election Day 1988, with the band using their increased profile to criticize Republican candidate George H. W. Bush while endorsing Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis (who would ultimately lose to Bush, souring the band's spirits, as later depicted on their 1992 song "Ignoreland").
The album was again produced by Scott Litt and was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, which was the home of one of their major influences, Big Star.
Despite the controversy surrounding the change in label, Green was a commercial success, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard charts. The single "Stand" additionally became R.E.M.'s second top-10 hit, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard 100 and receiving a parody by "Weird Al" Yankovic in the form of "Spam". The album's success was bolstered by an elaborate 11-month world tour throughout 1989, which helped build an international fanbase for R.E.M. This, in combination with Warner Bros' greater international distribution of the band's material, added fuel to the fire of growing success that "The One I Love" sparked in 1987, eventually culminating in R.E.M.'s 1991 mainstream breakthrough with their next album, Out of Time.
The album was also a critical success for R.E.M. as well: among others, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain regarded the album as a personal favorite of his, and NME ranked it at No. 274 in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Green spawned four singles: "Orange Crush", "Stand", "Pop Song 89", and "Get Up".
- "Pop Song 89" (3:03)
- "Get Up" (2:35)
- "You Are the Everything" (3:45)
- "Stand" (3:10)note
- "World Leader Pretend" (4:15)
- "The Wrong Child" (3:35)
- "Orange Crush" (3:50)
- "Turn You Inside-Out" (4:15)
- "Hairshirt" (3:55)
- "I Remember California" (5:05)
- "11." (3:15)note
TROPE! In the place where you live:
- Audience Participation Song: Live performances of "Get Up" feature the audience shouting the Title Drop in the chorus.
- Auteur License: The band legally received this starting with this album, through Warner Bros' assurance of full creative freedom for R.E.M. in their contract with the label.
- Breather Episode: "The Wrong Child" and "Hairshirt", two laid-back (if someone melancholic) acoustic songs each tucked between a different pair of more musically and lyrically aggressive songs.
- Censor Box: The video for "Pop Song 89" has Michael Stipe and a few female dancers. All are topless... and all have bars covering their nipples.
- Color Motifs: The album cover continues R.E.M.'s association with the color yellow via its heavy use of orange, a yellow tone. Some releases of the album go an extra step and up the color contrast to make the background yellow.
- Concept Album: Environmentalism and sociopolitical protest form the backbone of the album's themes.
- Double Entendre: The title phrase in "Orange Crush" refers both to the soda and the devastation caused by Agent Orange attacks.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
- Green, an album full of green aesops.
- "I Remember California", a song about remembering various aspects of California, right down to namedropping the Redwood forests that run along the upper and middle coastline of the state.
- Green Aesop: The album isn't called Green for nothing.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
- The album features an "Air" side and a "Metal" side on vinyl copies, continuing R.E.M.'s trend of custom-naming their LP sides. This naming scheme seems to not only be a nod to the album's Green Aesop themes, but a Development Gag regarding the original plans for Green to be a Distinct Single Album, with "Air" representing an acoustic side and "Metal" representing a, well, metal side.
- The single release of "Stand" also indulges in this, featuring a "Pinwheel" side for the main feature and a "Compass" side for the B-Side "Memphis Train Blues", with appropriate picture labels to boot.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: The interlude to "Orange Crush", shouted through a distant megaphone and buried under the sound of helicopters.
- In the Style of...: "Stand" was written as a homage to cheesy 1960's bubblegum pop in the vein of The Monkees and The Banana Splits.
- The Invisible Band: The band is absent from the "Orange Crush" video. Hell, they barely feature in the "Stand" one.
- Letters 2 Numbers: Inverted; the back cover and disc label list the fourth track, "Stand", as being track number "R". This stemmed from a typo made while typing out the album title: because "R" and "4" are right next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard, the album title was inadvertently spelled G4een instead of Green, and the band liked the effect enough to keep it. This typo is also why 4's are spot varnished/superimposed over the R's on the front cover.
- Mood Whiplash: The peppy bubblegum pop pastiche "Stand" is followed up by the dour, politically-charged, and almost crooning "World Leader Pretend".
- Mythology Gag: "Turn You Inside-Out" is more or less a remake of "Finest Worksong" off of Document, just with the chord progression reversed; the lyrics also act as a thematic continuation.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Pop Song 89", "The Wrong Child" and "I Remember California" (though "I remember" is a frequently repeated phrase in the latter). Also technically true with "11." — a title can't appear in a song if there isn't one.
- Non-Indicative Name: The album titled Green sports an orange and brown cover. Supposedly, the intent is to stare at the cover for a while and then look away to see an afterimage of green grass, but the fact that orange's opposing color is blue hampers this.
- No Title: The unnamed eleventh track, which isn't listed on the back cover but is given away via a timestamp on the disc label. The song is copyrighted under the name "11.", but only out of necessity; officially, it goes unnamed, and the "11." title is an allusion to the fact that the timestamp on the disc label is the only thing next to the otherwise blank eleventh spot on the tracklist. Fans commonly refer to it as the "11th Untitled Song", and a copy of the lyrics was sent out to members of the then-newly established fan club under the title "So Awake Volunteer".
- One-Word Title: Green, "Stand", "Hairshirt", "11." (technically).
- Protest Song: "World Leader Pretend" acts as an anti-Reagan anthem, while "Orange Crush" is a jab at conservative jingoism.
- Record Producer: Scott Litt "and R.E.M.", just like before.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Michael Stipe sings both lead and backing vocals on "The Wrong Child", the lead vocals being high-register and impassioned, and the backing vocals being a defeated, low-register monotone.
- Sequel Song: "Turn You Inside-Out" lyrically continues the themes of "Finest Worksong" from the band's previous album; this is emphasized by the fact that the 1988 song is more or less identical in melody to the 1987 one, but with the chord progression inverted.
- "Pop Song 89" features lyrics inspired by The Doors' "Hello, I Love You".
- "Stand" received a parody by "Weird Al" Yankovic in the form of "Spam", off of UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff.
- During the album's associated 1989 tour, Michael Stipe sported a loosely-fitting white suit directly in the vein of the one David Byrne wore during Talking Heads' tour for Speaking in Tongues, as captured in Stop Making Sense; Stipe even mimicked many of Byrne's mannerisms in Stop Making Sense in his own performances. The main difference is that Stipe's suit doesn't grow progressively larger during each show; apologies to those who hoped to see Stipe flounder around in his own version of the big suit.
- The Something Song: "Pop Song 89"
- Take That!:
- "Pop Song 89" completely takes the piss out of typical pop music tropes, tossing in as many cliche pop song subjects as possible within its three-minute runtime. The name "Pop Song 89" may additionally further this; given that the album was released in 1988, the allusion to the year 1989 in the title may be a jab at the fact that subject matter in pop music remained relatively unchanged since the 1940's and was unlikely to deviate too much from the norm in the future.
- "World Leader Pretend" is a less-than-subtle jab at the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who was in his last year of office at the time of the album's release.
- Talk About the Weather: The chorus of "Pop Song 89" asks "Should we talk about the weather?/Should we talk about the government?". The song itself is a mockery of pop music's banality, and its verses similarly throw jabs at pop music clichés (Love at First Sight, Silly Love Songs) in the band's typical Word Salad Lyrics manner.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: Done twice on "Stand".
- The Vietnam War: The subject matter of "Orange Crush", with specific focus on the U.S. Air Force's use of the infamous herbicide Agent Orange (which for those unaware was intended to raze down the jungles that the Viet Cong hid themselves in while lacking the extreme fire hazards of napalm, only for the chemical to turn out to be extremely toxic on skin contact alone, in addition to causing horrific birth defects in children of injured individuals).
- Word Salad Lyrics: As per usual with R.E.M. In particular, Peter Buck stated about "Orange Crush" that "I must have played this song like 3000 times in concert and after all this time I still have no idea what the fuck it's about." For the record, Michael Stipe stated that the song was about the U.S. Air Force's use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.