[Review] R.E.M.: Document (1987)

The One I Love, It’s the End of the World As We Know It, Finest Worksong. Need I say more?

Kronomyth 6.0: Last will and Document.

One day I will learn all of the words to It’s The End of the World As We Know It and subsequently sing them. It will probably be the last day of my life and I will mumble most of them. It will be Stipian, this moment, lost in irony as my quiet howl against taking anything in this world seriously is misunderstood and one inexperienced technician and one overworked nurse argue over whether my dying words began “It hurts like an earthquake” or “It’s hard for a nurse’s aide.” I will accept it quietly the way I have so many other indignities over the years, letting Peter Buck’s ringing guitars drown out the deafening dumbness of this world, the airy angelspeak of “Fall On Me” and “Perfect Circle” trailing behind like cloudmatter caught on a trouser cuff.

Document is the platinum blind leading the stoned dead into a bitter world of bored revolution, proletarian poetry and stillborn emotion. It is one of the finest albums they have ever recorded, and the first side stands as one of the most perfect pieces of plastic produced in the ‘80s. The second side falls apart some, or rather grows apart from track to track, unraveling after The One I Love levels the last stalk in the cold heart’s harvest.

A dark and brooding album much of the time, Document is yet exquisitely conceived. The opening Finest Worksong is the sharpening of a knife that cuts deep for the next forty minutes, from Disturbance at the Heron House to Oddfellows Local 151. Even the exhuming of Joseph McCarthy to hang him once more in effigy is welcome sport when it’s done with such joie de vitriol. From this point forward, R.E.M. assumed a prominent place on the national stage alongside U2 as spokespeople for their generation. This album documents the rise from revolutionaries to rock stars and remains required listening for most everyone, especially if you intend on singing along to the Apocalypse.

Read more R.E.M. reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Finest Worksong (3:48)
A2. Welcome to the Occupation (2:48)
A3. Exhuming McCarthy (3:19)
A4. Disturbance at the Heron House (3:33)
A5. Strange (Bruce Gilbert/Graham Lewis/Colin Newman/Robert Gotobed) (2:32)
A6. It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) (4:07)
B1. The One I Love (3:17)
B2. Fireplace (3:24)
B3. Lightnin’ Hopkins (3:18)
B4. King of Birds (4:07)
B5. Oddfellows Local 151 (5:21)

Songs written by William Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Finest Worksong (other mix)
13. Last Date
14. The One I Love (live)
15. Time After Time, Etc. (live)
16. Disturbance at the Heron House (live)
17. Finest Worksong (lengthy club mix)

The Players

W.T. Berry, P.L. Buck, M.E. Mills, J.M. Stipe with Steve Berlin (horns), Carl Marsh (Fairlight). Produced by Scott Litt and R.E.M.; engineered by Scott Litt; additional engineering by Gary Laney; additional mix engineering by Steve Catania.

The Pictures

Photography by Michael Meister, Sandra-Lee Phipps/Jim McKay Group. Packaging ally: Ron Scarselli.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc on September 1, 1987 in the US (I.R.S., IRS/IRSC/IRSD-42059), the UK (I.R.S., MIRG/MIRGC-1025), Australia (I.R.S., LP 460-105-1), Brazil (Epic, 23111), Japan (I.R.S., 28AP-3382) and South Africa (CBS, ASF-3174) with picture innersleeve; reached #10 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record) and #28 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 in Japan (CBS/Sony, CSCS-6085).
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 1993 in the UK (I.R.S.,13200-2) with 6 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 1999 in the US (RTI, 21276-1) and the UK (EMI, 499466-1) and on remastered compact disc in the US (Capitol, 21276-2).
  4. Re-packaged with Life’s Rich Pageant on remastered 2-for-1 2CD in 2003 in the UK and Taiwan (581799-2) with bonus tracks.
  5. Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee in 2008 in the US (I.R.S./Capitol, IRS-42059) and on September 1, 2008 in the UK (EMI, 422059-1).

2 thoughts on “[Review] R.E.M.: Document (1987)

  1. No review of Life’s Rich Pageant, but one of Dead Letter Office?

    Pretty sure Life’s Rich Pageant features some of Stipe’s most beautiful lyrics, even if left “un-decoded” for meaning.

  2. Also, an interesting possible topic:

    Talking Heads, R.E.M. headed for obscurity because no solo careers continue (add “anymore” for ‘Heads)? Solo releases fuel replaying of bands hits, so no solo careers => disappearance.

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