|R.E.M. - Automatic For The People|
|Release: 1992 / Label: WEA - Warner Bros / Collection: V / AMG Rating:|
|1||Drive||7||Monty Got A Raw Deal|
|2||Try Not To Breathe||8||Ignoreland|
|3||The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight||9||Star Me Kitten|
|4||Everybody Hurts||10||Man On The Moon|
|5||New Orleans Instrumental No. 1||11||Nightswimming|
|6||Sweetness Follows||12||Find The River|
Stephen Thomas Erlewine (All Music Guide)
Turning away from the sweet pop of Out of Time, R.E.M. created a haunting, melancholy masterpiece with Automatic for the People. At its core, the album is a collection of folk songs about aging, death and loss, but the music has a grand, epic sweep provided by layers of lush strings, interweaving acoustic instruments and shimmering keyboards. Automatic for the People captures the group at a crossroads, as they moved from cult heroes to elder statesmen, and the album is a graceful transition into their new status. It is a reflective album, with frank discussions on mortality, but it is not a despairing record — "Nightswimming," "Everybody Hurts" and "Sweetness Follows" have a comforting melancholy, while "Find the River" provides a positive sense of closure. R.E.M. have never been as emotionally direct as they are on Automatic for the People, nor have they ever created music quite as rich and timeless, and while the record is not an easy listen, it is the most rewarding record in their oeuvre.
Steve Knopper (Amazon.com)
Continuing to specialize in the art of curve-throwing, R.E.M. followed up its 1991 smash, Out of Time, with this fragile album of soft melodies and string arrangements. The sympathetic ballad "Everybody Hurts" must have prevented countless suicide attempts, while the Andy Kaufman tribute "Man on the Moon" (with Michael Stipe affecting an Elvis Presley imitation) and the rock-into-oblivion "Drive" are among the quartet's strongest hits. (The opening line, "Hey, kids, rock and roll," isn't so much a rallying cry as an expression of anxiety.) It takes a few listens for its charms to unfold, but Automatic is the gem between bigger hits Out of Time and Monster.
Rickey Wright (Amazon.co.uk)
Not quite as flawless as a masterpiece should be--what's the slight "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" doing among such remarkably grounded material?--Automatic For The People still deserves its reputation as one of REM's best. Another link in the band's chain of 90's classics, it hits each mood--the glum teen-spirit report of "Drive", the sensual wash of "Star Me Kitten" and the gorgeously transcendent "Find The River,"--perfectly. Fittingly, Michael Stipe's lyrics are among his most coherent and empathetic. This will be recalled, and listened to, as a great work long after REM have packed it in.
Martin Johnson (Barnes & Noble)
OK, so they're not simply shiny, happy people, but then R.E.M. never really were. The quartet responded to the immense commercial success of 1991's OUT OF TIME (almost overnight by record industry standards) with this collection of poetically introspective songs. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE followed its predecessor by a mere 18 months, but remarkably, the tone is vastly different. Lush and serene where OUT OF TIME is lean and perky, AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE is in many ways a continuation of the "unplugged" tour that preceded its sessions. However, the arrangements are more precise and meticulous. "Drive" and "Man on the Moon" are major highlights, while "Everybody Hurts" quickly became a theme for headline variations everywhere. More than ever, this recording shows that R.E.M. could handle the pressures of superstardom with a minimum of obdurate insolence.
R.E.M.: Mike Mills (vocals, keyboards, bass); Michael Stipe (vocals); Peter Buck (guitar, mandolin); Bill Berry (drums). Additional personnel: Lonnie Ottzen, Denise Berginson-Smith, Jody Taylor, Sou-Chun Su, Sandy Salzinger, Patti Gouvas (violin); Paul Murphy, Reid Harris, Heidi Nitche (viola); Elizabeth Proctor Murphy, Kathleen Kee, Knox Chandler, Daniel Laufer (cello); Deborah Workman (oboe); Scott Litt (harmonica, Clavinet); Bertis Downs (keyboards). Recorded at Bearsville Studio, Bearsville, New York; Criteria Recording Studios, Miami, Florida; John Keane Studio, Athens, Georgia; Kingsway Studio, New Orleans, Louisiana; Bosstown Recording Studios, Atlanta, Georgia. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE was nominated for 1994 Grammy Awards for Album Of The Year and Best Alternative Music Album.
A classic of modern rock. Released soon after Out Of Time it shows the band on a creative roll with no shortage of original ideas. Bold songs such as 'Drive' and 'Everybody Hurts' demonstrated that the band were not reluctant to experiment, while the Karl Denver opening on 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' and Stipe's magnificent hair-lip Elvis on 'Man On The Moon' were as good as anything they have recorded. Even with the departure of Bill Berry R.E.M. are still very much alive, but it would be asking a lot to expect any future album to match this.
(CMJ New Music Report, issue 304, October 9, 1992)
If you were to pull the Four Famous Boys From Georgia aside in a quiet place, and ask them about their favorite records, they'd probably all name the same twelve or so LPs by a few Anglo-influenced American artists (Big Star, Buffalo Springfield, Love's Arthur Lee, Skip Spence and Moby Grape). And more so than ever before, it's the warmth and genuine feel of that music-some of the greatest ever made-that's infused into R.E.M.'s tenth long-player, Automatic For The People. To some, the rootsy, acoustic mood of this album stems from its oft-bootlegged series of unplugged shows in support of Out Of Time, but the band's really been playing this way since 1985 or so (as it did in the movie Athens, GA-Inside/Out). Built on a sturdy, sometimes subtle base of guitars, Automatic is actually lushly orchestral, awash with strings, haunting mellotrons, reedy accordions and bright mandolins. Automatic For The People is surprising even in its timeliness, arriving so soon after Out Of Time-most superstar acts of its caliber usually take far more time off between albums. Though it's an oft-misused phrase and a bit of a cliche, it's nonetheless very true that R.E.M. have turned around and made the album that it wanted to make, totally open and honest, free from restraint, and completely unsullied by outside pressures or expectations. Over ten years on, after having forever altered the course of American music, Stipe, Buck, Mills and Berry have made a record that undeniably equals the masterpieces they themselves so admire.
Sutcliffe (Q Magazine,
Millions have been waiting on the new R.E.M. album, and
almost none of them are barmy. It could have been reverence mortis time,
but Automatic For The People turns out to be both aptly unfathomable and
just the job. The contradictory elements of the band's rock'n'roll
cravings and the singer's ruminative tendencies sit together like
completely different things in a pod. Other than on Ignoreland, a
stonkalong satire of Reagan/Bush America, it's folk they start from.
Acoustic guitars lead the way into Drive (the first single), Monty Got A
Raw Deal and several others. Hard on their heels come Michael Stipe's
vocals, high and sharp-edged with that severe absence of emoting long
associated with a finger in the ear - though there are exceptions such as
Try Not To Breathe where Stipe goes into character as an old man wrestling
with the imminence of death. But the subliminal message throughout,
seemingly, is that the singer is always in control; a distance is
maintained. It's crucial to the R.E.M. effect because, at the same time,
the band are eager to throw a cheery arm round the listener's shoulder -
rock on in with cleverly pointed touches on guitar, organ or a subtly
assembled backing vocal from Mike Mills. The strings are impressive too,
whether melancholy (Everybody Hurts) or jouncing ELOishly (The Sidewinder
Sleeps Tonight). Astonishingly, several of the arrangements were by John
Paul Jones, eking out his pension post-Mission production and Led
Zeppelin. So a lively form of bliss is readily available from the sounds
of Automatic For The People.
Paul Evans (RollingStone, issue 642)
R.E.M. has never made music more gorgeous than
"Nightswimming" and "Find the River," the ballads that close Automatic for
the People and sum up its twilit, soulful intensity. A swirl of images
natural and technological – midnight car rides and undertow, old
photographs and headlong tides – the songs grapple, through a unifying
metaphor of "the recklessness of water," with the interior world of
memory, loss and yearning. This is the members of R.E.M. delving deeper
than ever; grown sadder and wiser, the Athens subversives reveal a darker
vision that shimmers with new, complex beauty.