on 13 October 2003
The simple fact is that this is one of the best albums of the 1990s and, for me personally, my favourite album ever. Obviously, the one thing that you cannot ignore on this album is "Everybody Hurts", an absolutely classic of a song that you can listen to forever and still get a shiver down your spine with each play.
But that said, it is one of the few albums I have ever heard without a single weak moment. Personally, discounting New Orleans Instrumental #1 (I always discount instrumentals; don't ask me why!), "Man On The Moon" is probably my least favourite song and, given that it's an amazing all-time classic, that probably tells you all you need to know about the quality of the songs on here.
Elsewhere, "Star Me Kitten" is an astonishing piece of work and one of only a few songs (Radiohead's "Creep" amongst the others) that turns a certain four letter word beginning with F amazon won't let me write into the most beautiful sounding word in the English language. "Nightswimming" has the odd ability to make you feel nostalgic for a time you never actually experienced while "Find The River" is almost spiritual.
Elsewhere, the lyrical content "Try Not To Breathe" and "Sweetness Follows" helps prove that, although REM are dismissed by some of the alternative set as radio-friendly and simplistic, they, like Nick Cave, actually visit far darker places than virtually any band of the cut-out-and-shock amongst the metal brigade while "Sidewinder..." is an upbeat slice of simple pop music; but simple pop music done so splendldily.
Elsewhere, "Drive", "Monty Got a Raw Deal" and the political rock of "Ignoreland" round off an excellent album and an amazing achievement.
on 12 January 2006
I remember getting this on tape when it first came out and was blown away (amazing, as I was only 7!) Seldom does a band release and album where every track is amazing, but REM seem to have done that right up until the departure of Bill Berry on 'New Adventures in Hi Fi'. Its very difficult to say which are the highlights on this album, but three personal favorite songs are The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, Ignoreland and the beaufiful Find the River. This is possibly the greatest song ever written. Every time I hear it, it means something different to me, and I find myself moved emotionally.
On listening to this record, it feels like you are listening to a greastest hits album. Every track you will be singing along to and I guarantee it won't leave your CD player for weeks, if months...
on 17 July 2003
As an owner (and a big fan) of the original CD of this album I was interested to see how the upgraded version on DVD would compare. What I wasn't expecting was the sheer clarity of sound and the immersive atmosphere that the 5.1 sound on these remixed tracks would offer.
It still retains that distinctive REM sound and yet it seems to have been transformed beyond all recognition. The guitar seems crisper and the vocals so much clearer that I almost didn't recognise it. This really should not come as such a surprise since this was re-engineered from the original master tapes but the sheer quality increase is astounding. Also the surround sound on all the tracks is excellent (except for maybe 'Ignoreland' which is a little too 'busy' for it to be so noticable). In particular the effect that it has on 'Nightswimming' is particularly noteworthy.
I would definitely recommend this one to anyone, REM fan or even those who just want to see what a difference DVD audio can make to a recording.
on 14 May 2001
The problem with most REM albums is that they don't knock you over when you first listen to them. You think: "hmmm...I like this part of that song, and I like this melody... and that chorus...but nothing has really stood out yet... I'm waiting for THE track to smack me in the face...". But it doesn't come.
Then, as you're sitting at work, at home, or whatever... you suddenly start humming something thats been in your subconscience the whole damn day. How do REM do it? It must be subliminal messaging, 'cos I don't have a clue. After a few days and countless other plays, you find classics like 'Sweetness Follows', 'Drive' and 'Man On The Moon' churning in your brain. And that damn 'Sidewinder sleeps Tonite'! I...just ...cant...get it out of...my mind...
Soon you realise that 'Everybody Hurts' is probably the most poignant song ever written, and 'Nightswimming' one of the most beautiful. "Hang on a minute...", you say to yourself. "There isn't a duff track on this...but I thought i didn't like...". And then it hits you. "This is one of my favourite albums!"
I don't know how they do it. But they do.
on 18 August 2007
... and possibly my favourite album of all. It's impossible to put into words what I really feel for this record, because it's far beyond reason.
Like most of my all time faves, this disc didn't have me hooked from the start. In fact, I thought it was the most overrated piece of junk ever! But back then I was a spotty teenager who'd recently picked up the guitar and found that I could play all the songs with out any trouble (while I struggled to get to grips with anything by Brain May, Slash, Hendrix and Page)... I thought that if music was simple an understated, it was bad music. Buck, Berry, Mills and Stipe taught me that there was more to making great music than blistering musicianship. Over the months of listening to it, I found that I gradually got to love the tracks outside of the core singles "Drive", "Everybody Hurts", "Man on the Moon" and "Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite". But that took time.
Out of Time was the first album I had of theirs, and I was immediately won over by its warmth and accessibility, but AFTP was so stark in comparison. However, something made me pick it up and put it on again (mostly the singles that I did like) - and after a few weeks "Try not to Breathe" and "Find the River" became the most special tracks for me. One by one, other tracks followed, until I couldn't fault a single note (although, it really is the notes they don't play, the dead air, that makes this record so different). With the passage of many months, this band went from zeros to heroes in my eyes until I wore out my tape and had to replace it with a CD.
You'd think I would have learned from this experience, but when I first heard their follow-up, Monster, I absolutely hated it with a passion. Of course, within a month I'd reversed my opinion completely. Then I went through their back catalog and reveled in their awesome and prolific collective talent. I won't rave on about all their other albums here, but suffice to say their work has been consistently brilliant from the very start up until they released Around the Sun, where it took a dip. Not to end on a negative note, I believe that The Worst Joke Ever is one of the most earcatching melodies I've heard in a long time.
Oh, and one last (and very important) thing - AFTP is not, by any means whatsoever, depressing in any way (as many claimed at the time). It is one of the most hope-filled, comforting beautiful records you could ever own - so hurry up and click "Add to Basket" right now and make your world a little brighter :-)
on 11 September 2012
Easily one of the best albums of the 1990s, R.E.M.'s AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE becomes one of the cornerstones of modern music in the last decade. Few albums can touch this in terms of lyrical responsibility, well-crafted music, and top-rate song writing. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE also takes a very big risk which pays off wonderfully. At the height of the grunge movement, R.E.M. releases a largely calm album. There is quite a bit of contrast between this and NEVERMIND or TEN. In the end, however, AUTOMATIC is more rewarding on the emotional level for the listener in the long run that either one of those albums. And on a sonic level, it's a radical left-of-the-mainstream album which not only became huge but, without a doubt, forever secured R.E.M. a place in music history. Not only was it in complete opposition to the music scne of the time, it also is, along with Radiohead's OK COMPUTER, the two top albums on the 1990s.
To give a personal listening history, my brother, big into grunge at the time, had bought this album when it first came out and really didn't think much of it. So I always took it out of his CD-case and listened to it on my own. To this day our musical tastes are pretty far divided, although we do have mutual ground. Why this didn't capture him as it did me, I still have not understood why. He was to busy listening to TEN, I suppose, to really get the gest of this album.
Anyway, point being, I've listened to this album since 1993, and track for track I am very hard pressed to come up with a 1990s album even half this good. This is also an album, even after having listened to it for years, which I never tire of, and I've literally listened to it so many times I've lost count. While I'm not real familiar with R.E.M.'s body of work, as I understand it this is their best album, and from what I have listened too I can understand that. The albums I have heard (MONSTER, GREEN, DOCUMENT, and OUT OF TIME) have some great songs, but they're nowhere near as consistent as they are here. The melodies and arrangements are inventive and well-suited to the music.
The atmosphere is probably what is best about the album. This album is a collection of music dealing with several interrelated themes. There is a sense of struggle on this album, and a very real sense of hope that we can indeed make this a better world. While some albums revel in despair, this never sinks to preachy or self-pitying. You will find few releases where the emotional resonance is as strong as it is here. I would even almost except the fact that emotionally this has more of an impact than even Dylan's BLOOD ON THE TRACKS lp. That captures pain, etc, but it is not emotionally as well-rounded as this is. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE captures pain, but also hope, love, a calm soothing effect make it a well-balanced piece. "Try Not To Breathe", coming from the prospective of an elderly person, deals with Euthanasia and how he/she has decided to die. Yet even when he has decided to die the will to live still presses on, and with "Everyone Hurts," and "Sweetness Follows" in quite close proximity, it is obvious that, while you should understand their request and respect them as humans, euthanasia is not the answer. Help them, do not kill them. After all, everybody hurts.
As for tracks that are "weak", there are two. "New Orleans Instrumental", which is fine in it's own right, was never my favorite although it fits the mood of the album. "Star Me Kitten," although I like the song both in texture an lyrics, says "f- me kitten" instead of "Star Me Kitten," so parents be warned. "Ignoreland" is also a rather perfunctory track. Even with these considered, AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE is still easily a masterpiece.
In the end, AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE, alongside Radiohead's OK COMPUTER, are my two top picks of the 1990s music, and both of these albums join that coveted "essential" list of rock albums.
on 24 December 2002
It's difficult, ten years on, to say anything remotely original about this album. While not my favourite REM LP, I think I must concede that it is one of their best.
Following Grammy-soliciting Out Of Time, it must have been hard for REM to go back into the studio with that hanging over their heads. While Out of Time read like the slow decline of a relationship (through the giddy highs and lows of Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy people to Low and Country Feedabck), Automatic reads like the slow decline of a life. The lyrics are dark, the music full of gothic flourishes.
From the beginning then, those highpoints in full:
Drive - REM's response to the courting of the Generation X'ers by the grunge groups. REM were cited as being a little old hat - and this song suggests they were savvy to this. With the MTV-baiting refrain "Hey kids, rock and roll, nobody tells you where to go...", they were speaking to 'the kids' without patronising them.
Sweetness Follows - Delicate, breathtakingly beautiful, this is one of REM's finest compositions. Stipe's vocal performance is flawless, and the lyrics are among his best. While he is urging us to see whatever light there may be at the end of the tunnel, the lapping tides of feedback are there to remind us that with this hope, there is still pain. This is one of those songs that makes you wonder how anyone could write REM off...
Star Me Kitten - This track is just noise to me, the way I like it. The lyrics are indistinct; it's best just to let the music, the keyboard drones (originally samples of Dennic Hopper's Frank Booth) and the twinges of feedback wash over you.
Nightswimming - Plaintive, emotive and very beautiful, this is a song that means a lot to me. With its simple piano motif and sleepy Coleridge-like narrative lyrics, its a classic piece of songwriting.
Find The River - REM's trump card is usually their choruses. This track features the truly stunning dam-burst of a chorus that ranks among their best moments. When Stipe sings "I have got to find the river" and the music blossoms into life behind him, you know that this is a band with a winning hand.
on 21 November 2000
Oscar wilde famously said when asked if he any thig to declare at customs: "I have nothing to declare but my genius". That is the line that should be fixed on the front of a masterpiece of this kind, there is no need to declare anything, one listen and your drawn in, zombified by the continuity the album possesses, from the start, Michaels voice enters your head and it is still there singing to you hours after the CD has finished playing. The warmth possessed by tracks such as "side winder sleeps tonite" and "find the river", send a tingle through your being, and the emotions that you feel during "Everybody hurts" make you think about the meaning of life for just a split second. There is a song for every emotion to help every situation, and to please every one, though in my case this is true for the whole album. This album makes a bad day good, and a good day perfect. My one complaint is that this album is often overlooked in the best albums of all time and languishes around 10 - 15th place when with one listen you can tell that it has a place in the top 5 by right and should even be in the top 3, i mean come on is oasis's "what's the story..." a more perfect balance than this, kid yourselves not, Automatic is life, and life is beautiful
on 17 January 2000
Believe the hype.
This record was the moment when they largely left behind the irritating poppy moments of Out of Time (Shiny Happy People is one of my least favourite songs ever) and instead built on the more sombre mood that had been present in their work from the start. Peter Buck was allowed to get down and dirty on a couple of tracks, and Stipe came out of his shell - singing words that you could here and almost understand.
The songs are all wonderful and surprisingly intimate from one of the biggest bands in the world, peaking with the majestic Nightswimming and Find the River. Everybody Hurts was the big single, but it's the last two that you could listen to time and again without getting bored of them.
They even throw in their traditional instrumental featuring an instrument no one can recognise (what is it?)
Nearly ten years old now, this record still sounds as fresh as it did when it was first released (which cannot be said about some of their earlier and later records).
Buy it, it will be a friend for life.
on 23 February 2006
In the early 1990s,a new force emerged from the shadows of Georgia, USA. Already a decade in the business, a functional shift in style and zest propelled American outfit known as R.E.M. to the summit of the rock world. A band with many albums behind them, R.E.M. churned out Green and Out of Time to surpass their rock counterparts from Dublin: U2.
It is in the sequel to these albums that a true masterpiece was created. Automatic for the People has a power of no other album; an inherent emotional applomb with the ability to move the coldest of the cold. On the back of two excellent albums, this heralded a new level of musical excellence.
Haunting, macabre songs such as Sweetness Follows, Try not to Breathe and Drive compliment the beautiful, emotionally heightened brilliance of Everybody Hurts, Nightswimming and Find the River. Wonderful alternate musical styles and melodies from the band were complimented by the incredible vocals and lyrical genius of lead singer Michael Stipe. More upbeat lively songs such as Man On the Moon and the Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite are classics, the latter being a crazy, lyrical shambles that works a delight in light of the band's innovation and unique style.
Whether you're an R.E.M. fan or not, this album is a must-have and the best place to start if you desire to formulate an avid interest in the band's productions.
Some excellent material has followed, but Automatic for the People is truly one of the greatest albums of all time (my favourite personally) and a definitive turning point in the face of 90s rock music- by the world's greatest band.
Two words for you who does not possess the album: buy it.