Speaking to Rolling Stone on the eve of the release of Document, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck said: “We wanted to make a tougheredged, loose, weird, semi live-inthe studio album. I don’t see this as the record that’s going to blast apart the chart, although you never know. Weirder things have happened.” Buck got it one part right. His band’s fifth album was more musically strident and direct than any of its predecessors, yet it also gave R.E.M. a Top 10 single in America with the brooding The One I Love, and went on to become their first platinum-seller.
Up until Document, R.E.M. had established a reputation as the American indie-rock band most likely to succeed, founded on a series of evocative-sounding records wrapped up in Buck’s ringing guitar and singer Michael Stipe’s oblique lyrical imagery.
Document was recorded in under a month in April 1986 in Nashville with future Nirvana producer Scott Litt. By and large, its 11 tracks ran to less than 40 minutes. Finest Worksong gets the record off to a raw, straight-ahead, clanging start, and the rest follows mostly in that vein. Stipe used fire as a recurring theme to stir up a singular vision of a world shot to hell, matched by Buck’s squalling guitar, most specifically on the breathless It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).
Within 14 months of Document’s release, R.E.M. had signed to Warner Bros and made the similarly user-friendly Green. Next, in 1991, they unleashed Out of Time, Losing My Religion… and ascended to become the most heralded band in the world. PR
“We wanted to make a tougheredged, loose, weird, semi live-in-the studio album.”
R.E.M: didn’t see Document “as the record that’s going to blast apart the chart”.