The way R.E.M. always balanced emotional levity and political commentary feels like a useful survival mechanism, one that deserves to be excavated and updated for the modern world. As online debates seethe over political memes and mocking hashtags — and whether such sardonic humor softens the severity of what’s going on or is simply a way to cope — finding such equilibrium is an imperative.
In the end, it’s poignant that “Document” starts with the aggressive “Finest Worksong,” whose very first line is the rabble-rousing cry “The time to rise has been engaged.” More than anything, the album urges people to stay motivated, and to speak up and take action — timeless advice that feels more vital than ever.
If you’re hearing R.E.M. on the radio for the firs time today you could be forgiven for thinking they lack politics