“Michael Stipe mumbled his way through R.E.M.’s early albums” (Tyrangiel/ Light) and then “began to move toward mainstream record production on Life’s Rich Pageant, but they didn't have a commercial breakthrough until…Document” (Erlewine).
“Ironically, Document is a stranger, more varied album than its predecessor, but co-producer Scott Litt – who would go on to produce every R.E.M. album in the following decade – is a better conduit for the band than Don Gehman, giving the group a clean sound without sacrificing their enigmatic tendencies” (Erlewine).
“The One I Love beats all comers as the most brutal love song ever to hit the Top 10 (‘A simple prop, to occupy my time/ This one goes out to the one I love’)” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
“The stream-of-conscious rant” (Erlewine) “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) proved Stipe’s pessimism was trumped by his sense of humor” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
Those two and the album’s third charting song, Finest Worksong “all crackle with muscular rhythms and guitar riffs, but the real surprise is how political the mid-tempo jangle pop of Welcome to the Occupation, Disturbance at the Heron House, and King of Birds is” (Erlewine). In particular, “‘Welcome to the Occupation’ (‘Sugar cane and coffee cup/ Copper, steel and cattle/ An annotated history/ The forest for the fire’) made imperialism rhythmic” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
“Where Life’s Rich Pageant sounded a bit like a party record, Document is a fiery statement, and its memorable melodies and riffs are made all the more indelible by its righteous anger. In other words, it's not only a commercial breakthrough, but a creative breakthrough as well, offering evidence of R.E.M.'s growing depth and maturity, and helping usher in the P.C. era in the process” (Erlewine).