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Automatic For The People

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Artist: R.E.M.
Title: Automatic For The People
Format: CD/DVD-A
Genre: Rock
Label: Warner Bros.

If a band is fortunate during their career, they are able to put together one album that is as a classic in their respective genre, or better yet, jumpstart an entirely new style or sound. R.E.M. did all that. Automatic For The People was their creative climax and Warner Brothers does this 1992 rock classic justice with a CD and DVD-A package (5.1-surround sound) and a revealing documentary on the recording.

R.E.M. music gets under your skin, it may take a few listens but it works on you. Listening to “Drive” and “Man On the Moon” brings you back to that particular place and time in your life when you first heard these songs. This album made history in many ways including inspiring the Andy Kaufman movie “Man On the Moon.” When an album receives an honor such as being associated with a recognized film, it is a lifetime achievement and watermark in a career that all artists hope to attain.

I found the documentary on the DVD-A very interesting. They did an interview with the restaurant owner that has the slogan “Automatic for the People” on his sign outside the establishment. The band looked at that sign one day decided that they loved it, hence the name for the recording. Personally, I did not know the story behind the music so it was very entertaining. The band’s personal notes and commentary regarding the recording process was most absorbing. It is always interesting to hear what the creator of the music has to say, it is so different from your own perspective. When each individual listens to music it becomes his or her own story and it adapts in some way to a current or past life situation. That is what great music does for you and why you remember it.

After listening to the album five times I felt I did not have enough, there was more to uncover in the music and words. The sound is crisp and clear, the most brilliant you will ever hear this music. The one track that really stuck with me and pulled on my heartstrings was “Everybody Hurts,” it is a very emotive and true to life song. The mood of the entire album is pensive, political, sad…all of that rolled into a package that sent a message to their listeners, and it all rings true to this very day. The liner notes are superlative, they put every track and the atmosphere of the entire project in perspective, and very eloquently.

Is this one of the greatest rock albums of all time? After listening to this version and hearing every subtle nuance, the gorgeous strings arranged by John Paul Jones, and the tremendous song craft and musicianship, I believe this to be true.

© Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

February 25, 2005


01. Drive
02. Try Not To Breathe
03. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
04. Everybody Hurts
05. New Orleans Instrumental No.1
06. Sweetness Follows
07. Monty Got A Raw Deal
08. Ignoreland
09. Star Me Kitten
10. Man On The Moon
11. Nightswimming
12. Find The River

Video Documentary, Photo Gallery, Discography, Web Link

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  • RJ

    This is one of my favs as well.

  • sydney

    You like this album RJ?

    But micheal stipe would hate you. He’s against everything you stand for.

    anwyay, I guess the music connects on a differnt level…? I dont; know..

    It would be like me listening to ted nugent.

  • RJ

    Just because an artist is a Leftist doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate his art.

    Mr. Stipe would probably disagree with me on a wide variety of issues, but I doubt he would HATE me if we actually met…

  • I think this is a very good but not great album. I just never bought into the conventional wisdom that Automatic was REM’s masterpiece and it was downhill since.

    To be honest, I like Life’s Rich Pagent, Murmur, Green, and New Adventures in Hi Fi better.

    “Drive,” though, is haunting. That song is a masterpiece.


    Now RJ, don’t go and unsettle Sydney’s worldview, you’re not fitting into the box he has put you in.

    After Green, I stopped enjoying R.E.M.

  • I’ve learned a valuable lesson – if you like how it sounds fuck their politics (and can we keep that over there –> ) That’s why I thought it was ultra-stupid to be throwing away Dixie Chicks CDs in ought-3.

    Back to REM – Green is their best album. They were still raw and innocent and unpretentious. Since then they’ve had about one standout song on every album.

  • dg

    I like REM. Not a big fan of their politics. Reminds me of the book, “Shut up and sing”. Same thing with movies, I think Tim Robbins was brilliant in “The Shawshank Redemption”, when he starts to tell me how to think, time to go…

  • Aaaaaah Shawshank …. A case of a film better than the Stephen King novella that spawned it – though that was pretty good, too.

  • I must also admit that “Find the River” is a pretty great song.

    However, “Nightswimming” and “Everybody Hurts” are among the sappier REM tracks.

  • To ther person who said they liked “Green” best… that was the yuppie album for crying out loud.

    Now then, I have a beef with the idea that “Automatic” was R.E.M.’s “creative climax”. That’s absurd. Have you listened to “UP” or even “Hi-Fi”?!

  • “Everybody Hurts” may be ‘sappy’ but hey, it was about (teen?) suicide.

    that ain’t exactly rock material.

  • Vern Halen

    “Hate” is a misused term – I think you have to know someone or something well to hate them.

    For instance, I “hated” AFTP the first time I heard it – I thought REM had gone right off the deep end. I put the albumm away in the pile of inlistenables. However, I “loved” Monster.

    Interestingly, after I played Monster for about two weeks, I realized that it wasn’t one of REM better efforts. I went back to AFTP, and finally got the point. It’s one of their best albums, maybe even their very best. Too bad their current releases are so….tame.

  • I think ‘Automatic’ is unquestionably the band’s masterpiece. They made only one mistake on the disc… “Ignoreland” is very out of place within the context of the rest of the record. Having said that… the disc is nearly perfect.

    Temple… interesting characterization of “Green.” For some reason, what I hear ‘feels’ pretentious to me. I cannot quanitify that very well… but I pick up that vibe when I listen to some of those songs. “Green” never sounds very inspired to me. But one of my co-workers lists “Green” as his favorite R.E.M. album, and I notice several others have championed it. Maybe I just “don’t get it.”

  • RJ

    Yes, I liked Monster as well. But not nearly as much as AFTP.

  • RJ

    “Aaaaaah Shawshank …. A case of a film better than the Stephen King novella that spawned it – though that was pretty good, too.”

    Most SK novels/novellas are much better in writing than on screen. I agree that the screen version was slightly better in this case, though I loved both.

  • Vern Halen

    Green was OK, but it had one absolutely killer tune – “Turn You Inside Out.” The song alone is worth the price of the CD.

  • Eric Olsen

    you are all clearly insane communists: by far the best song on Automatic is “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” – is it a coincidence it wasn’t sung by the already rapidly deteriorating Michael Stipe? I think not.

  • Eric, I’m confused – Stipe clearly sings on “Sidewinder.” Or am I missing a joke?

    File me as a recent Monster re-lover. I hated it when it came out. Hated it – I seethed with distaste for it. Sold it back to the same store I bought it from shortly after I gave up on it. Then I re-bought it about a year ago and have found that it’s actually a pretty great album. Time has been much more forgiving of that album than the band’s fans and the general public have been. A masterpiece? No, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to crank up.

  • Eric Olsen

    oops, sorry Tom and thanks – I was actually referring to “Texarkana,” which is my favorite song on Out of Time – shows how much I listen to post-Eponymous R.E.M.

    Sorry again

  • Eric Olsen

    guess I’m the insane communist

  • Vern Halen

    Anyone ever hear a bootleg called “So Much Younger Then”? It’s REM before they got a contract, from a board tape doing a live set. I think some are covers, but as far as I know none of these songs ever were done in the studio. “Narrator for the Jacques Cousteau Show” – a cover (I think), or the great lost REM single?

  • I like Monster a lot, though it doesn’t demand a lot or spins nowadays, I must admit. I was semi-obsessed with What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? back when it first came out.

    I’m not that big of a fan of Out of Time at all, though I like about half the songs. The other half, however, is the worst collection of songs that REM has ever put out (Radio Song… yuck). I do like Texarkana a lot, though, Eric.

    Finally, call me a yuppie if you will, but I love Green. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it’s yearning, it compels multiple listens.

    And don’t ask me why, but I listened to World Leader Pretend about 750 after a bad breakup in college. It’s was weirdly soothing: “This is my mistake / Let me make it good.”

    Maybe that’s the magic of REM, which works for some people and others clearly don’t get: it’s weirdly soothing.

  • Eric Olsen

    just whatever you do, for God’s sake, don’t go back to Rockville

  • I wouldn’t go because, among other reasons, there looks to be inclement weather asunder in the southern central region.

  • Eric Olsen

    were it me, I would seek shelter in the kiosk on Moral St.

  • Are you speaking of the one on the second floor (up the stairs), west of The Fields shopping emporium?

  • Joseph

    What are all these puns for Eric? Have I missed the big reveal?