Automatic for the People
Released: October 6, 1992
Peak: 2 US, 14 UK, 4 CN, 2 AU
Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 2.27 UK, 18.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: alternative rock
Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
All songs written by Berry/ Buck/ Mills/ Stipe.
Total Running Time: 48:52
4.457 out of 5.00 (average of 31 ratings)
Quotable: “A classic of modern rock…it would be asking a lot to expect any future album to match this.” – CdUniverse.com
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
The post-Nevermind era found “overzealous major labels desperately seeking the next Nirvana.” PF The “amped-up, aggressive nature of grunge threatened to make R.E.M.’s increasingly refined, mandolin-plucked pop seem, well, out of time.” PF “The knee-jerk response would’ve been to let Peter Buck pounce on the distortion pedal” PF but instead of trying “to compete in a world where teen angst was all the rage, R.E.M. set about crafting a rueful response to the onset of middle age – and remind us that life goes on even after your slam-dancing days are over.” PF
Automatic for the People “captures the group at a crossroads, as they moved from cult heroes to elder statesmen.” AMG “R.E.M.’s career up to that point had represented the platonic ideal of a left-of-center rock band infiltrating the mainstream—a step-by-step process that saw the band turn bolder and its audience get bigger with each album, culminating in the multi-platinum, MTV-saturating success of Out of Time.” PF “Automatic for the People arrived a mere 18 months after Out of Time – a swift turnaround time for a sequel to a blockbuster album that still seemed ubiquitous well into 1992.” PF
R.E.M. responded by “turning away from the sweet pop of Out of Time” AMG to create a “haunting, melancholy masterpiece.” AMG This was “an austere but nakedly emotional album” PF of “poetically introspective” BN “folk songs” AMG about “the anxiety of aging, the inevitability of death, the loss of innocence, and the impossibility of holding on to the past.” PF “R.E.M. have never been as emotionally direct…nor have they ever created music quite as rich and timeless.” AMG
“The music has a grand, epic sweep provided by layers of lush strings, interweaving acoustic instruments and shimmering keyboards.” AMG The latter was provided by Mike Mills while Bill Berry was “stepping up on bass more often than before” IB and Buck was “still fiddling with his mandolin from the Out of Time sessions.” IB “But then the early 1990s were to R.E.M. what the late ‘60s were to the Beatles – a period where the band took a break from touring to immerse itself in the possibilities of the studio, breaking down traditional instrumental roles in the process.” PK
The Album Title and Cover Art
“That striking cover photo is actually a close-up of a star ornament” PF which is part of the sign for the Sinbad Motel in Miami, near Criteria Studios where most of the album was recorded. “Rendered in brutalist grey, it appears as fierce and fearsome as a medieval cudgel. The image bluntly reinforces the notion that while Automatic for the People isn’t a loud album, it’s certainly a heavy one.” PF
“The video…gamely adopts Seattle-scene aesthetics—a never-ending mosh pit rendered in flickering black-and-white…But when Stipe crowd-surfs atop a sea of hands belonging to fans several years his junior, he’s not trying to ride a trend, but starkly illustrate just far from the alt-rock zeitgeist R.E.M. had drifted in the Year of Grunge. When he sings, ‘Hey kids, where are you?/Nobody tells you what to do,’ it’s with a combination of awe and envy.” PF It “isn’t so much a rallying cry as an expression of anxiety.” AZ
“Try Not to Breathe”
“The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”
Musically, this is a song largely absent of “traditional percussion,” PF which is especially interesting when one considers that it was “crafted by drummer Bill Berry.” PF In addition, “the string section is tastefully done and suitably soaring.” AD
“New Orleans Instrumental No. 1”
“Monty Got a Raw Deal”
It is also “the only guitar rock song on the entire album, but still doesn’t sound out of place, which is a strange thing. The production over the course of this album is very rich, very detailed and all the songs arrangements and instrumentation are suitable, and ‘correct.’” AD
“Star Me Kitten”
“Man on the Moon”
“Find the River”
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First posted 10/6/2011; last updated 9/5/2021.