R.E.M. is an American rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by Michael Stipe (lead vocals), Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass guitar), and Bill Berry (drums and percussion). R.E.M. was one of the first popular alternative rock bands, and gained early attention due to Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipe's unclear vocals. R.E.M. released its first single, "Radio Free Europe", in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. The single was followed by the Chronic Town EP in 1982, the band's first release on I.R.S. Records. In 1983, the band released its critically acclaimed debut album Murmur, and built its reputation over the next few years through subsequent releases, constant touring, and the support of college radio. Following years of underground success, R.E.M. achieved a mainstream hit in 1987 with the single "The One I Love". The group signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1988, and began to espouse political and environmental concerns while playing large arenas worldwide.
By the early 1990s, when alternative rock began to experience broad mainstream success, R.E.M. was viewed as a pioneer of the genre and released its two most commercially successful albums, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992), which veered from the band's established sound. R.E.M.'s 1994 Monster was a return to a more rock-oriented sound. The band began its first tour in six years to support the album; the tour was marred by medical emergencies suffered by three band members. In 1996, R.E.M. re-signed with Warner Bros. for a reported US$80 million, at the time the most expensive recording contract in history. The following year, Bill Berry left the band amicably, with Buck, Mills, and Stipe continuing as a three-piece. Through some changes in musical style, the band continued its career into the next decade with mixed critical and commercial success. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Document is the fifth studio album by the American band R.E.M. It was released in 1987 a few months after their rarities collection Dead Letter Office appeared and is the last album of new material by the band released on the I.R.S. Records label. It is the first album the band worked with producer Scott Litt.
Document was R.E.M.'s first album co-produced by Scott Litt and the band, a collaboration that continued through Green, Out of Time, Automatic for the People, Monster, and New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and may account for their success with this album as well as the following five. The album's clear production and muscular rock riffs helped to move the band towards mainstream success and built on the work done by Don Gehman, who had produced their previous album Lifes Rich Pageant. This album was significant not only in launching R.E.M.'s first U.S. Top 10 hit in "The One I Love" (which reached #9), but also giving them their first platinum album. It was also their first Top 10 hit on the Billboard 200.
"Exhuming McCarthy" makes an explicit parallel between the red-baiting of Joe McCarthy's time and the strengthening of the sense of American exceptionalism during the Reagan era, especially the Iran-Contra affair. Starting with the click-clack of a typewriter, it also includes a sound clip of Joseph Welch's rebuke of McCarthy from the Army-McCarthy Hearings: "Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator.... You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
The song "Strange" was originally recorded by the post-punk band Wire. This version has slightly altered lyrics, such as "Michael's nervous and the lights are bright." After Document, their I.R.S. contract expired. With the band poised to become a major rock group—perhaps to the dismay of their college rock fans—R.E.M. signed a five-album deal the following year with major label Warner Bros. and saw their commercial fortunes grow exponentially.
R.E.M. expanded their instrumentation somewhat on the album, adding dulcimer to "King of Birds" and saxophone to "Fireplace". This experimentation would lead to their adoption of the mandolin, which featured prominently on their subsequent albums Green and Out of Time. Furthermore, the band's musicians began swapping instruments both in concert and in the studio in an effort to create new sounds (and avoid stagnation).
The original sleeve for the album featured the message "File under Fire", a reference to what Michael Stipe considered to be the central lyrical theme of the album. A similar message ("File under water") could be found on the cover of the band's second album, Reckoning, as well as on the compilation album Eponymous ("File under grain"). Two rejected suggestions for the title of the album—R.E.M. No. 5 and Table of Content—also appear on the sleeve artwork.. Other possible album titles included Mr. Evil Breakfast, Skin Up with R.E.M., and Last Train to Disneyland (the last one having been suggested by Peter Buck, who felt that America under the presidency of former actor Ronald Reagan was beginning to feel a lot like the famed amusement park).
"Finest Worksong" – 3:48
"Welcome to the Occupation" – 2:46
"Exhuming McCarthy" – 3:19
"Disturbance at the Heron House" – 3:32
"Strange" (B.C. Gilbert, Graham Lewis, Colin Newman, Robert Gotobed) – 2:31
"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" – 4:05
"The One I Love" – 3:17
"Fireplace" – 3:22
"Lightnin' Hopkins" – 3:20
"King of Birds" – 4:09
"Oddfellows Local 151" – 5:21