Friday, December 23, 2011

247. Automatic for the People. Back when they were fab.

Album: Automatic for the People
Artist: REM
Genre: Rock
Year: 1992


  1. Drive
  2. Try Not to Breathe
  3. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
  4. Everybody Hurts
  5. New Orleans Instrumental No. 1
  6. Sweetness Follows
  7. Monty Got a Raw Deal
  8. Ignoreland
  9. Star Me Kitten
  10. Man on the Moon
  11. Nightswimming
  12. Find the River

REM recently pulled up stumps on the career, shook hands with the umpires and walked off the world's stage claiming bad light stopped play. They decided their life as a rock band was over which caused a lot of people to say "I had no idea they were still together". There was a lot of love for the band but not much of it for their later career, most of the affection was reserved for the early days when they played the big rooms and albums like Automatic for the the People sold millions and made them rich.

If you're one of the people whose response to REM's break up was: "Who are REM?" then this album is probably the best introduction to a band who once rivaled U2 for popularity. Contained within Automatic's microscopic silver grooves is some of the best music from the early nineties, a time when "alternative rock" became mainstream and the name itself  became meaningless.

Everybody Hurts is probably the biggest hit. With its memorable video clip (and even more memorable D-Gen send up) it seemed to perfectly express a shared sense of communal existential angst. Stipe's voice could be genuinely beautiful when he had the right song and Everybody Hurts (along with Nightswimming and Drive) provided him the perfect outlet. His voice even sounds great in The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite which features the magnificent chorus "Call me when you try to wake her," at least that's what the lyric sheet says. In reality everyone on earth hears "Call me Jamaica Ha." I'd love it if there was a tradition in REM concerts to shout "Jamaica Ha!" at Stipe whenever he sings this line. Sadly I think REM fans take the band a bit too seriously for that to ever happen.

Automatic for the People's main flaw is the fairly flat middle section. Track 5 is a two minute instrumental. I don't know about you but when I see an instrumental in an album I consider it to be an admission from the artist that they haven't written enough to fill the running time. It's entitled New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 but it might as well be called Filling up Space. It's the album's low point and sadly it's followed by the rest of the dud tracks which are clumped together forming a large dead space. If it wasn't for the appearance of Man on the Moon at track 10 it might be tempting to stop the album early and put on something else.

REM- they were great once and music is better for their presence.

Highlight: Everybody Hurts
Lowlight: New Orleans Instrumental No 1

Influenced by: The Monkees apparently.
Influenced: Alternative rock (but don't hold that against it)

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Save your money, or better yet, take the money you would have spent on this album and bet your friends that the members of REM end up homeless within the span of five years."

-Considering this was written in 2002 I think he reviewer might have lost himself a bet. I'm fairly sure the members of REM still had homes in 2007

So can you drive an automatic or do you prefer a manual? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. I love this album and reckon that Man on the Moon, Nightswimming and Find the River are possibly the finest trio of songs to finish an album in the entire collection.