R.E.M. – Document: #344 of best 1,000 albums ever!

R.E.M. - Document

So why is R.E.M.’s Document on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

There are a tiny number of R.E.M. songs that I flat out don’t care for.

“Radio Song,” off of Green, is one of them (though I actually like when they play it live, sans KRS-One!).

“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” is… it’s fine, I suppose, but it’s far from my favorite R.E.M. song. Part of it is surely due to overexposure – it must be among the Top 5 most recognizable songs from the band along with other… let’s say pretty but overexposed tunes like “Everybody Hurts,” off of Automatic For the People – and part of it is that R.E.M. in “We Didn’t Start the Fire” shout/chant mode is just not my favorite mode of theirs.

Okay, whew. Now that that’s out of the way, the rest of Document, as you might have guessed, is rather terrific even if it hasn’t worn quite as well for me over the years versus other as yet early-ish career albums that have not yet appeared on this here best 1,000 albums ever project.

“Exhuming McCarthy” is by far my favorite song on Document, which is really a masterpiece both as prescient political statement and super catchy jangle pop and rock gem.

Vested interest united ties, landed gentry rationalize
Look who bought the myth, by jingo, buy America

Here’s an interesting interpretation of it from Old Time Music:

The song… touches on themes of political disillusionment and the erosion of trust in political leaders. It captures a sense of frustration and cynicism towards those in power, suggesting that they manipulate the masses for their own gain. R.E.M. urges listeners to question authority and not fall prey to the tactics of those who seek control.

I would go further in saying that we now live in an age where one of the two major political parties in the U.S. actively seeks to erode trust in all public institutions – particularly government (all three branches) and the media – so as to push their own authoritarian agenda.

As I mentioned, it’s prescient.

And then musically, “Exhuming McCarthy” is one of R.E.M.’s sharpest, catchiest, and most compelling numbers. Just great stuff.

“Welcome to the Occupation,” another striking political statement, also represents the culmination of the driving jangle pop sound with that unique blend of punk and southern folk influences that started with Chronic Town back in 1982.

As good as the version is as performed on Document, I love the version of “Welcome to the Occupation” even more on Live at the Olympia (which itself is an astonishing listen).

It’s possible that “The One I Love” is the first R.E.M. song I ever heard. I have a vague memory of seeing the music video on MTV. This makes sense as Document was the band’s breakout hit album, and the band’s popularity would continue to soar fame across their next three albums (Green, Out of Time, and Automatic for the People, the latter of which is #546 of best 1,000 albums ever).

I love the muscular guitar hook, and when I listen to it with fresh ears, I can still feel how unique and great R.E.M.’s sound was at the time the band burst onto the American music mainstream from its college rock origins.

“Strange” is simply a great rock song, and R.E.M. sounds like they’re having a blast while recording it.

Other stuff that has something to do with R.E.M.’s Document

The “McCarthy” is “Exhuming McCarthy” refers to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, and “McCarthyism” is shorthand essentially for “witch hunting” in politics, and specifically refers to a dark period in post-World War II U.S. politics. From Wikipedia:

McCarthyism, also known as the second Red Scare, was the political repression and persecution of left-wing individuals and a campaign spreading fear of alleged communist and Soviet influence on American institutions and of Soviet espionage in the United States during the late 1940s through the 1950s.

Some stats & info about R.E.M. – Document

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, College Rock, Jangle Pop, Pop Music, Indie Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Document released? 1987
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #344 out of 1,000

R.E.M.’s Document on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from R.E.M.’s Document that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.