Sound — 9
This has to be REM's most sorely underrated work. I am seriously pissed off how little attention this album gets because it's probably their best album! It has plenty of moments that are better than Automatic for the People, despite that album's heavy emotional tones. The sound here is REM, cranked up to 10 with distorted riffs roaring. There are plenty of soft, acoustic numbers too that are equally good. Some songs such as Undertow or Wake-Up Bomb show a definite Nirvana/grunge influence that is pulled off much better than on Monster.
Lyrics — 8
Michael Stipe has one of the greatest voices in modern music and it shows here. He croons on the ballads and wails his heart out on the fast tracks. The lyrics contain the typical REM crypticness and also some great comedic moments. On Wake-Up Bomb he tells the story of what a rock star's life is like (Gallagher brothers reference). On New Test Leper he speaks of the same themes of a religion complex as on Losing My Religion. And Electrolite is REM's swan song to the 20th century, and also to them being a foursome.
Overall Impression — 9
This is definitely the band's best work and is be far their most complete. Automatic has Stipe's most solid and intense vocal performance and their '80s work has their poppy, anti-establishment work they are famous for. But this album blows all the others out with it's huge range and powerhouse performances by each member. Out of Time is actually what I'd consider their worst album. It's sad though that this would be their last truly great album and would mark the end of REM's dominance in music. Hopefully their new one will bring them back up.