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*AFP - abbreviation for Automatic for the People*
Music is such a powerful medium - it can transport you to places you once visited long ago, make you remember lost faces and memories that you once locked away. One group and one album in particular stirs up all these emotions for me. The group is REM and the album is Automatic for the People.
I am sure you all know who REM are but for those who don't, let me introduce you; Wiki describe the group as an American rock band. I prefer to stick them in the genre of country rock or alternative rock. Four members of the band; Michael Stipe who is known for his strange faces, painted eyebrows and weird dances, dreamy vocals and great songwriting, Mike Mills - bass guitar, Bill Berry, songwriter, drums and percussion and Peter Buck, guitars (acoustic and electric). The guys come from nowhere land - a sleepy town called Athens in Georgia, America. They look geeky, may act geeky but they aren't geeky - they are one of the best bands to come out of the 90s.
The album I am reviewing is in cassette form (yes, I really should buy a CD) and I am amazed that it is still with me and hasn't snapped in half. This piece of music has been all over Europe with me and was always played non-stop in the car when travelling through, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. It then followed me to Portugal where it was played constantly at a time in my life where I spent a lot of time on my own with my young son in a strange country learning a new culture and speaking a new language. At times the songs that are plagued with a deep melancholy made me very sad and now when I hear it I take a deep breath, smile and try not to weep because the overall sound of the album has a sort of 'being underwater' feel to it. I know what that feeling is like; like you are breathing and enjoying life but frightened that suddenly you are going to be suffocated and it will all be taken away from you.
I remember my life way back then - sometimes quite lonely as my husband used to spend some times two/three months at a time away working in UK. My son was growing up but still only young and the songs on this album remind me of him; living a free life in the sun near the ocean but there was always a little sadness there - missing his Dad. In a way AFP is an album about growing up - moving on and away to pastures new but still remembering the things that made life good. AFP is so different than their other highly acclaimed and commercial album 'Out of Time'. The songs on this album are not as poppy, mainly country rock; they make you cry but then at times heal the pain that you are feeling internally. It isn't an album that you can only listen to once - it is addictive and throughout my life it has been played endless times and I never tire of the songs. I have cried, laughed and been healed.
Michael Stipe in his own way has a very powerful voice - his tonal quality is soft, dreamy, unintelligible but very dramatic and intense and his manner of delivery draws you in; right in, so deep that it claws at your mind and your heart. He may be a bit nerdy to look at but his vocal performance on the track, 'Try not to Breathe' is outstanding. Not only does he have a very individual voice his songwriting talents are very unusual. Not many people can write a deep and meaningful song about ending one's life in old age and make the song catchy so that you find yourself singing along with it as well being caught up in the emotion of it all.
And then there's, 'Everybody Hurts,' possibly my favourite song and one of the saddest on the album. The song wasn't actually written by Stipe but by the drummer Bill Berry. He didn't play drums on the track - a drum machine was used and the string arrangement was put together by that famous bassist from Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones. The song was released as a single in 1993. The song is very melancholy to say the least and when he sings those words, 'Everybody Hurts' - you do hurt - you feel the pain that he's trying to transmit - pain that teenagers feel; when they think they are alone and no where to go. But you know, like Stipey says, we all cry, we all get hurt but we have to hang in there, hold on, it will be okay. A beautiful song where the lyrics and vocals dominate beautifully while keyboards and guitar and strings play out behind.
I mustn't forget the opening track, 'Drive.' As an opener this song creates the sound and mood for the entire album. At times his voice is raspy and unintelligible but hey, he's from Athens, Georgia so we can forgive him the southern twang. There's nothing to forgive really - it's a great sound. I particular lke the whole set up of this track with acoustic and electric guitar, perfect drumming and whenever I hear that reverb my fingers start to tingle and my spine shivers. Great song to tune into especially when on the road at night.
'Man on the Moon' is also a beautiful song and I always remember my son listening to this in the back of the car with his headphones on and singing at the top of his voice. Lovely memories. The lyrics relate to the life of the comedian Andy Kauffman athough the biopic film came out a lot later. Quite an upbeat track but still there are many touches of sadness throughout the song.
'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' - another well crafted song. I must have had this album since it was released and I love this track with its happy country rock feel and Stipey's little laugh after mentioning Dr Seuss but for the hell of me I never understood what he was singing about until last year when I read another review and realised that in the chorus what I thought was 'Calling Jamaica,' turns out he was singing 'Call me when you try to wake her up,' Still it never mattered to me whether I understood or not - I just loved the song and still do - it's a real Stipey, Athens number.
This album is their 8th studio album and I think a well crafted piece of work. It shows how these four geeky kids from a nowhere place like Athens lost their innocence and changed into a more mature band with an International outlook. It is difficult for me to choose a favourite album because they went on to make good albums after Automatic and I am fond of all their work but I think I will give this my top vote just because of the mood it creates and the quality of the songwriting.
The last two tracks on the album are perfect examples of quality. 'Nightswimming' and 'Find the River'.
The piano on 'Nightswimming' is haunting and beautiful. The lyrics tell us of a time past - a time we long for......
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago,
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse
Still, it's so much clearer
I forgot my shirt at the water's edge
The moon is low tonight
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I'm not sure all these people understand
It's not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
Of recklessness and water
They cannot see me naked
These things, they go away,
Replaced by everyday...............
What with the lyrics and the lovely orchestration at the end I am always choked when I listen to this and the last song, 'Find me a River' is a masterpiece and probably my second favourite of the album. A song about getting old - I know what it feels like but I always find this one a comforter. The lyrics to this are superb.
The ocean is the river's goal,
A need to leave the water knows
We're closer now than light years to go
I have got to find the river,
Bergamot and vetiver
Run through my head and fall away
Leave the road and memorize
This life that pass before my eyes
Nothing is going my way
There's no one left to take the lead,
But I tell you and you can see
We're closer now than light years to go
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
Fall into the ocean
The river to the ocean goes,
A fortune for the undertow
None of this is going my way
There is nothing left to throw
Of ginger, lemon, indigo,
Coriander stem and rows of hay
Strength and courage overrides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river poet search naivete
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
All of this is coming your way
I particularly love the phrasing of this song and on the whole the phrasing of REM's lyrics are very unusual which I think always adds a bit of quirkiness to their songs. Another group who are from the same place, Athens, are B52's - now they are a weird bunch and you can see similarities in their compositions and the vocals of Fred Schneider.
Not all the tracks are brilliant - there are a couple of what I think are good fillers like: 'Star me Kitten' and 'Ignoreland' . Nothing too bad here but I do find I lose concentration a bit and tend to drift off when it comes round to these two.
Two other songs worth a mention are: 'Sweetness Follows' - a very desperate song about being depressed and dying. There is a lovely bass sound on this track which overrides everything else except the exceptional feedback on the guitar. And a song where you hear some fine backing vocals from Mike Mills - 'Monty Got a Raw Deal,' slips back into the earlier REM style.
So there you have a run down of Automatic for the People. Not a bunch of laughs but a very distinctive sound from these boys. An album I feel is timeless and personally means a lot to me and I remember just recently being in a supermarket stood at the check out when 'Everbody Hurts' was played. Tears just rolled down my cheeks uncontrollably. Not every song or vocalist can make me weep but Michael Stipe can.
Here are a couple of links if you want to hear what REM sound like:
"Drive" - 4:31
"Try Not to Breathe" - 3:50
"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" - 4:06
"Everybody Hurts" - 5:17
"New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" - 2:13
"Sweetness Follows" - 4:19
"Monty Got a Raw Deal" - 3:17
"Ignoreland" - 4:24
"Star Me Kitten" - 3:15
"Man on the Moon" - 5:13
"Nightswimming" - 4:16
"Find the River" - 3:50
I can't believe this album came out way back in 1992! Its probably REMs most well known album with some real classic songs that everyone will have heard at some point. It's not my favorite REM album but I do love it. So here is what I think.
1. Drive - Typical REM sounds to start us off. Quite a morbid kind of sound to this one, but with some nice music. 8/10
2. Try Not To Breathe - This one is not my favortite but it does have quite a nice sound to it. It just lacks something. 7/10
3. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite - An instant classic. Brilliant lyrics, perfect delivery, catchy tune. Stipe at his very best. But still does not quite do enough to make it perfect! 9/10
4. Everybody Hurts - Now I must confess, I don't like this song. It is so miserable. But it is a work of genious! Even though it gets me down, the words are inspriational, the melody beautiful and it is a great song. It's a real love-hate thing! 9/10
5. New Orleans Instrumental No.1 - Just a pleasent instrumental. 7/10
6. Sweetness Follows - A dark song. But a very powerful one that stirs my emotions. 8/10
7. Monty Got A Raw Deal - Classic REM sounds. Quite a chilled song with some nice banjo? playing in the back ground. Then it gets going a little more. 7/10
8. Ignoreland - Probably the heaviest song on the album. This is the kind of REM I like, however this song really does not show what they are capable of. 7/10
9. Star Me Kitten - A nice song. Very slow and laid back. But a little boring? 7/10
10. Man On The Moon - Again a work of art. Some stand out lyrics and a great melody. Think this is a song that we have all heard and some point and is one of REM's biggest hits. 9/10
11. Nightswimming - Beautiful. Iconic piano sounds. Think this has to be my favorite. 10/10
12. Find The River - A really good solid end to the album. Finishing with three songs as strong as these is quite unusual but I like it. This song is a really good song with nice sounds and good lyircs. 9/10
Overall a very good album. It just lacks the kick that I like. It's almost to nice for some reason. But still a very good listen, and if your a fan of REM I can guarentee you will find something on here you enjoy! 8/10
It's their most complete and elaborate work to date.
R.E.M. recorded an amazing record back in 1992. This is the follow-up of the highly successful 'Out Of Time' which went platinum all over the world, mostly because the hit single 'Losing My Religion'. They didn't tour in support for OOT, so they recorded this masterpiece that is AFTP.
While their earlier work was bright and uplifting, Automatic is exact the opposite. Elaborate and haunting, melodic and acoustic. Michael Stipe sings about birth and death, suicide and sorrow. It's not a depressing album, but it's also not easy to listen to it fully.
The most sad song from it is the first single, Drive which is almost a scary song. 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight' is the most beautiful song off the record in my humble opinion. It has a strange effect on me.
Other great songs: Everybody Hurts, Man On The Moon (which was written about the late comedian, Andy Kaufman) and Find The River which closes this dark album. But the last song is about hope, this way the album has a positive ending.
I grew up with this album. I've been listening to Automatic on and off since I was about five years old; my father would play it for me and since I never lived with him it always had sentimental value in the coming years. But enough of that sap.
DRIVE makes for an excellently, chillingly understated opener. It sets the generally melancholy tone for the entire album. The high-pitched instrument in the background (thanks to my musical illiteracy I'm not sure what it is), juxtaposed with the low acoustic guitar, rumbling electric, and Stipe's morose vocals, sends chills down my spine.
TRY NOT TO BREATHE is a misleadingly upbeat jangle which I take to be suicidal (in Michael Stipe's signature detached position). Very clever.
THE SIDEWINDER SLEEPS TONITE may just be my least favorite track on this album. Like everyone else, I manage to have botched the words to the chorus, having thought the lyric was "Call me when you get to Waco" instead of "Call me when you try to wake her". Because of Stipe's indistinct and thus unappreciable vocals and his corny falsetto in between, I'm not quite sure how this song fits in with the rest of this melancholy tour-de-force.
EVERYBODY HURTS has become quite a cliche, I'm afraid. It's that song that diehard R.E.M. fans like myself have gotten sick of because everyone else knows it. It's supposedly the hold music for a certain suicide hotline somewhere in the States, which is fitting with the song's motivational message, yet the music itself is so damn depressing, I'd probably end up offing myself if it were played for me on a suicide hotline. Not to seem morbid or nothing.
NEW ORLEANS INSTRUMENTAL NO. 1 tends to leave me wondering about No. 2, 3, 4, and so on. Actually, it's a great little creative masterpiece. It dutifully continues the theme of bittersweet melancholia.
SWEETNESS FOLLOWS chokes me up and sends shivers down my spine. Having read other reviews and seen that they tend to treat this song rather unfavorably, I'll take this moment begging to differ. The lyrics are straightforward and that makes them all the more effective. Stipe's vocals, along with the rising tide of cello and electric guitars, haunt me and affect me as they have since I was yay-high and will continue to forever.
MONTY GOT A RAW DEAL chills me as well. It is simplistic and deadpan, with a guitar full of heartache. The drum breaks between verse and chorus suggest something tribal. The lyrics alternate between ambiguity and striking imagery. Bear with me as I go through a couple verses:
- "Monty, this seems strange to me / The movies had that movie thing / And nonsense has a welcome ring / But heroes don't come easy"
- "So I went walking through the street / I saw you strung up in a tree / A woman out there said to me / 'Just hold your tongue, hold your tongue...'
Listen and decide for yourself!
IGNORELAND also seems to have been maligned by various other reviewers. After the stodgy buildup of bad feeling of the last few tracks, this one pummels on in with full force, a fast-paced political diatribe against Reagan-tainted 1980s America. The issues still ring true today, and if not for the telltale 80s-style riffs and synth beats it could be truly timeless.
'STAR' ME KITTEN (actually, F**K ME KITTEN; they are clever) languidly brings you down after the high-voltage previous track. One of the few blatantly heterosexual works of R.E.M.; Stipe's lyrics are noted for their sometime sexual ambiguity and other times, asexuality. It used to lull me to sleep when I was little; actually, it still does. It's still better than SIDEWINDER, though.
MAN ON THE MOON, the achingly earnest-seeming tribute to Andy Kaufman, feelgood and catchy, with references to Elvis Presley as well. It turns pop-culture universality into something far more likable and personal.
NIGHTSWIMMING, I find to be slightly overrated. It's whiny. It's also quite raw and raunchy, with nothing but Stipe's croon accompanying a whimsical piano. It goes out kinda like a soap opera's ending credits; it always used to remind me of Brookside for some reason (not that I ever watched Brookside but my mother tells me I enjoyed the theme song, who knows, it was a long time ago).
FIND THE RIVER closes with warmth and languor and sensuality, a sultry summer night while DRIVE is a frosty, bitter cold winter morning. The lyrics and music are equally brilliant, pained yet hopeful.
Automatic for the People is not an album to listen through once and form an opinion; it takes time and effort. That time and effort will be well spent. If you're interested in R.E.M. and haven't listened to anything else of theirs, don't start with Automatic. It's hardly 'user-friendly', but that's what's given it the great deal of acclaim over the last 17 years.
Automatic for the People - R.E.M.
I cannot believe that this is 16 years old, 1992.
I am down to my last 100 CD's or thereabouts (including my wife's) to transfer to iTunes, so this will tell you already that they are not my favourites. Still to come as reviews are Kylie (really), Moloko, Shaggy....well you get my drift.
This is actually one of my wife's CD's though I will be honest and tell you that I have a bit of a soft spot for 'Everybody Hurts'.
The booklet that goes with the CD shows Mr Stipes et al, being all broody in poses that pretty much make them look like the American version of Oasis, and they are pretentious doughnuts at the best of times.
It is fair to say that I am pretty open minded to most music, so I promised my wife I would listen to the whole album before discarding it to the holdall that spells boot sale death to unwanted CD's.
Hah, my comparison to Oasis is deeper than visual. Acoustic guitar, drums, some violins and a moody, meaningful songs, with a 'rock' middle. Much to 'expected' for me. Musically actually quite competent, but it aint my thang and it goes on too long. 3/10.
2. Try Not to Breath.
Bit livelier (but not much) than last track. Again all acoustic guitar and drums, almost 'folk' in some of the undertones, but vocally it is all a bit too sincere and 'clever' for me, sorry folks, another low score. 3/10.
3. The Sidewinder sleeps tonight.
One of the big hits from the album.....never liked it when it came out, don't like it now, too late 80's, early 90's American soft rock come indie. 3/10.
4. Everybody hurts.
Unlike the last track, I have always liked this. I love the starting few bars, and the first verse lyrically is so emotional, so raw that it is one of those rare songs that I talked of in another review, that brings a lump to my throat. I love the way that it is piano, guitar and voice, the 'waves' of the song peak and trough. Really quite a classic in my opinion. When the strings and then drums come in at about 2.20 it really takes the song to another level, almost like a crescendo....then it drops to acoustic again for the last verse, then we get a final minute or so of 'big' music again, accompanied by repeat vocal to fade. Brilliant song writing, great arrangement and cracking vocals. 10/10.
5. New Orleans Instrumental No1.
This song starts quite electronically and seems, at the beginning very out of step with the previous tracks. The individual instruments that follow range from Oboe to cello, and some I cannot identify. It is like a cross between those New Age trance tapes, and modern classical, but in a good way. Very nice and unexpected. 8/10.
6. Sweetness Follows.
I am not sure how to describe this song, and that is unusual for me. Depressing? Indie Folk? Clichés? I know.....boring. 1/10.
7. Monty Got a Raw Deal.
Well I love the title. I also like the Spanish influenced guitar work at the start. The vocal is just a little to Mid West in style and warble for my liking. The song feels like a modern reworking of what might be a Western Frontier folk song. I do kinda like it, and I don't. I have not put it onto iTunes, but I would not turn the radio station over if it came on whilst I was driving, it has a feel of The Levellers about it. 5/10.
Great rock style opening for the first 30 seconds.....then it goes downhill. The vocals sound like they used an amp turned lower than all the instruments, or he is standing 6 feet from the mike. This is R.E.M. trying to be political and rock all at the same time, it don't work fellas'. 2/10.
9. Star me Kitten.
Oh my gosh, this is actually hard on my ears, it is unpleasant, seems out of tune, the vocals are strained and low, the lyrics almost indecipherable. Rubbish. 0/10.
10. Man on the Moon.
Another popular offering that went well as a single, well at least I seemed to hear it a lot at the time. I feel that I should be in a club to 'get' R.E.M. but I don't know the entry requirements or the rules, I just don't get it. The only bit I like is when he does a mini Elvis impression, it is the first time I have heard them not be all cerebral and serious. 2/10.
I do love the beginning to this song, good strong piano and I quite like the vocals that embellish the piano. He sings in a very indie/rock way and the piano playing is almost classical in feel, it is very good. When we get the strings it just adds to the classical feel and the end of the song where we get a whole string section is lovely. Very catchy in it's own way and for a change a quite 'light' song in it's meaning. 8/10.
12. Find The River.
Acoustic guitar start again, very nice. I was just getting into the intro and the vocals came in and spoilt it. Thankfully we get all acoustic between verses, for without the classy backing music, this would be awful, the vocals and lyrics are. 3/10.
Tracks 4, 5, and 11 have been uploaded to my iTunes and subsequently my iPod, the album is now in the CD holdall of death, never to see the light of day again. That is no bad thing, because for all the hype at the time, looking back, it really was/is an album of fillers. Three decent tracks from 12, a 25% good album, that aint good enough!!
The CD will cost between 10p (plus postage) and £1 on Amazon Marketplace, you might like it, little bland for me.
I have a habit of not being able to connect bands with what songs they wrote. I'm constantly being surprised when someone puts on a CD and I think 'Wow! I didn't know this song was by U2!" I know the band, I know the song, but I'm just unable to put a name to a face, as it were. And so it was with R.E.M. A while ago I was at a friend's house when he put on this CD.
"Wow!" I screeched. "Is this REALLY R.E.M.?"
"Uh, yes" He said. "Who did you think it was?"
"I thought this band was the one with the front man who is now a politician in Australia and is really evil."*
"No, that's Midnight Oil."
"So THIS is R.E.M." I said in wonderment.
So now I actually know who they are, I've been obsessed with them for the last month or so. It doesn't help that in the shop I volunteer at I get to choose the music, and there's an R.E.M CD in the collection. I play "Automatic for the people" as much as I can possibly get away with. I'm sure that somehow listening to R.E.M in Leeds is helping starving orphans in Africa. I'm pretty great that way, you know.
A BIT OF HISTORY:
R.E.M was formed in Athens, Georgia (US) in 1980 by Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry. Starting off low key, by playing in and around Athens and Atlanta, their first single; "Radio Free Europe", was released in 1981, and since then the band has gone onwards and upwards. They've got a very distinctive sound, thanks to Stipe's voice. It's hard to describe, but I would say that it sounds like he's often singing at the top of his register; as if his voice is about to crack if he sang a semitone higher. It's quite a raw voice, almost a wail at times, and often he doesn't enunciate clearly, so you don't always understand the lyrics. His voice is not your only obstacle to understanding the lyrics; he is notorious for writing lyrics that are impossible to decipher. There are words, yes, and punctuation, but it's often hard to figure out what on earth he's talking about. I think he takes great joy in doing this, so I will bow to the greatness of Michael Stipe, and try to do as little analysis of the lyrics as possible in this review (Also, because it's hard, and I don't like hard stuff.)
"Automatic for the people" was released in 1992, and the album reached No 1 on the UK charts, and No 2 on the US ones. It's commonly described as quite a dark, sombre, very reflective album, a statement with which I disagree slightly. I don't think it's particularly depressing; rather, I find it interesting, and I like interesting things. I like the melodies, the orchestration, and the overall sound of the album, and listening to it makes me feel quite good. Some may say that I've completely missed the point of the album, although I prefer to think that it's because I have the emotional and musical sensitivity of a piece of tinfoil (Get it?? Reflective? Tinfoil? Oh, sometimes I amuse myself far too much)
1. DRIVE (4:31)
Let us begin our musical odyssey with "Drive." There's quite a heavy, ominious guitar into, as well as some very serious reverb going on when Stipe sings. It's very strong rhythmically, which echoes the refrain of "tick-tock" that keeps repeating throughout the song. I especially like the introduction of the electric guitar at about the two-minute mark. It lifts the song from being mournful into something much more multilayered and more interesting melodically. Overall though, it's quite a 'heavy' song; the musical equivalent of eating a German meal consisting of meat stuffed inside meat, and then a plum pudding for dessert.
2. TRY NOT TO BREATHE (3:50)
It almost sounds like a Celtic song; with a sort of swingy, folky sound. Peter Buck on the guitar gives a nice upbeat sound, keeping the pace of it going forwards, rather than slipping back. Stipe sings well here, and I can almost imagine that he's developed an Irish lilt to his voice when singing this. It's the guitars that give this song its rhythm, and the percussion isn't too overwhelming. The lyrics are typically completely bizarre, there's something about wanting something "to fly over my grave again"? I don't really know. But it's a good song, and works well, coming as it does after the heaviness of "Drive".
3. THE SIDEWINDER SLEEPS TONITE (4:06)
This is a wonderful track. I mean, how can you not love a song that starts off with Michael Stipe singing the "ooe-oooe-oooe-oooe" bit from "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"? It starts off with some lyrics about phoning home, lets us all know that the sidewinder, is, in fact, sleeping both in a coil, and on his back (I'm glad they told me this. It's always good to be informed about the Sidewinder), and then complains about how "instant soup doesn't really grab me". It's fun, and has some great guitar bits. In this song, more than any other, you certainly feel like Stipe is singing just out of his range. It does get a bit whiny up on the high notes, but the song is just so much fun, that it doesn't really matter.
Fun Fact: If you listen carefully, just after he sings "Or a reading from Doctor Seuss" (At about the 2:31 mark) you can hear Stipe start laughing, and attempt to keep on singing. Cute.
Funnier Fact: The lyrics "Call me when you try to wake her up" are repeated 32 times.
Funniest Fact: Before I actually researched the lyrics for this review, I was totally convinced that the above phrase was "Calling Jamaica". And I kept thinking to myself "Why doesn't Jamaica just pick up the bloody phone?!?"
4. EVERYBODY HURTS (5:17)
This was written by Michael Stipe, allegedly in an effort to stop teenagers thinking about committing suicide. Whilst some people find it very moving and touching, personally I hate this song. I find it mawkish, boring, and unoriginal. Lyrics like "everybody cries/Everybody hurts sometimes" just seem so bland compared to all the other songs on the album. And I know it's so the song would appeal to (mostly) teenagers and people in pain, but I am neither of those, and the song didn't 'speak' to me. It's been covered a hundred million times so maybe that's part of the reason I don't like it. I don't know. Stipe's voice seems just so harsh to listen to, compared to the very mellow instrumentals. In fact, (if you'll pardon the imagery) they way he forces and strains his voice in his effort to get the words out, you'd be forgiven for thinking that he's singing this whilst having a particularly brutal session on the toilet.
5. NEW ORLEANS INSTRUMENTAL NO 1 (2:13)
This piece consists of a guitar riff which is repeated, overlaid with various instruments and melodies. Although the song is heavy on the bass, the lightness of the melody makes this quite uplifting to listen to. I don't find it to be a depressing piece, there's something about the choice of melodies and harmonies that intrigue me. It's not very long, and a nice change of pace. I think it fits in well as the fifth track on the album.
6. SWEETNESS FOLLOWS (4:19)
According to my in-depth research (Wikipedia), Stipe has dropped hints that the lyrics could be interpreted as a rant against religious ideas that it doesn't matter if this life is bad, because there's better to follow in the next. If that is indeed true, then it's very typical of Stipe to write very "ranty" lyrics, yet set them to such a melodic and almost hypnotic score. It's probably all synthesised, but you get the impression that there's both an organ and a cello in the mix as well, and by bringing in the electric guitar at around the 2:05 mark, gives the song a completeness and complexity that's very pleasing to listen to.
7. MONTY GOT A RAW DEAL (3:17)
This starts with a very pared-back sound, just Stipe and an acoustic guitar, before bringing in the percussion and backing vocals. For some reason, this song brings to mind cowboys. I don't know why, but you can imagine it being almost a dirge or a lament for an old cowboy. It's quite slow, and I think could actually sound a little better sped up. It's not my favourite track on the album, but it's still OK to listen to.
8. IGNORELAND (4:24)
This one has a very '80's' kind of sound, with lots of electric guitars and heavy percussion. Stipe's lyrics are a bit indistinct and faint, as if someone didn't get the sound levels right, and he's being drowned out by the guitars. The lyrics are quite political, such as "They hypnotised the summer 1979/Marched into the capital brooding duplicitous, wicked and able, media-ready/Heartless and labelled" and "TV tells a million lies. The paper's terrified to report". It's got a lot of power and soul behind it, I could imagine it being used as a protest song, like some of U2's songs are. It's hard to sing along to, as Stipe sings very fast, running lines of vocals into each other. It's probably my least favourite song on the album.
9. STAR ME KITTEN (3:15)
After the powerhouse that is "Ignoreland", this is a nice change of pace. Also, for a change, Stipe seems to be singing at the bottom of his vocal register. It's so painfully low that my vocal chords are constricting in sympathy. It's about keys, and loving someone called "Kitten". It's almost hypnotic, as the backing vocalists are just sort of humming along, and the whole feeling of this song is of languidness, like you're sinking into treacle. Mmm. Treacle.
10. MAN ON THE MOON (5:13)
This song makes reference to the performer Andy Kaufman, and the song was featured in the 1999 film "Man on the moon" starring Jim Carrey. It starts off with some really slinky bass and guitar lines. It's really rhythmical, and catchy, especially with the "yeah-yeah-yeah's" that pop up frequently. The tempo quickens up for the chorus, and it becomes much more "rock-y", before slinking back down again in the verses. It's a very well-constructed song, in my opinion. Besides, Stipe does a pretty awesome Elvis impersonation, so what's not to love, really?
11. NIGHTSWIMMING (4:16)
This is my new favourite song. It's absolutely beautiful. I love the orchestration of it. There's absolutely no percussion, and it just starts off with Michael Stipe and a piano, and the song just swells with the addition of strings (Arranged by Led Zepplin bassist John Paul Jones). The lyrics themselves are memorable, evocative of a bunch of friends going for a night-time drive and then skinny dipping. Although, knowing Stipe's propensity for downright confusing lyrics, there may be a secret message to Satan in there somewhere. But there's something about the stripped-down sound of this song that lifts it to the sublime. Sublime is really the only word I know to describe this.
12. FIND THE RIVER (3:50)
Stipe sings over a strumming guitar and it's quite a low-key start to the song. It picks up during the chorus, with the addition of the backing vocals and the piano. The lyrics are fantastic; "Me, my thoughts are flower strewn/Ocean storm and Bayberry moon" there's a certain sense of dreaminess about it all. It almost reminds me of Simon and Garfunkle if they had decided to rock things up a bit. It's a very soothing song to finish this musical journey.
Overall, a written review is not going to tell you much about the sound of an album. You'll have to listen to it yourself to see what you think. It sells on Amazon.co.uk for around £4 new, and only 95p used, as well as on HMV.co.uk for £4.99. I'm just glad I finally found out about R.E.M, and listened to this album, as it is truly fantabulous. Now, if I could only figure out who sings that song that goes "doo doo doo doooooooo" in the middle, and also if I've ever heard a song by that band, you know, the famous one with those guys who sing that song........
* FYI, the frontman of Midnight Oil, Peter Garret, is now Australian minister of the environment. Although, responsibility for the two biggest environmental issues facing Australia today, Water and Climate change, have been given to people who, oh, I don't know, WERE NOT INCLUDED IN THE GOVERNMENT AS A PUBLICITY STUNT.
REM is an American band with a distinct sound formed in 1980. Fronted by lead singer Michael Stipe, they have enjoyed multiple successes both critically and commercially, at the same time as riding the criticism of them being too depressing with their music, both lyrically and with the tone of the musical production. However, they have continued to churn out the hits.
'Automatic For The People' is their 8th offering as an album, from 1992, and contains a few hits such as 'Drive', 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight', and what is perhaps their signature tune 'Everybody Hurts'. There are 12 tracks on the album.
These are the tracks:
2. Try Not To Breathe
3. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight
4. Everybody Hurts
5. New Orleans Instrumental No.1
6. Sweetness Follows
7. Monty Got A Raw Deal
9. Star Me Kitten
10. Man On The Moon
12. Find The River
I find it easy to appreciate the musical quality on offer here, yet I am not that enamoured with the album. I am among those who find that Michael Stipe's voice, brilliant as it is, is a bit wearing after a while, and the natural tone of REM's music requires that I listen to only a few tracks at a time.
The unfortunate thing about this album is that there are a string of commercially unknown tracks in the middle, This, combined with the inability I have to be able to sit through a whole REM album, makes me skip to the familiar tracks most times. Within those middle tracks, there are a couple of very good tracks, and lyrically 'Monty Got A Raw Deal' is very clever, but there are a couple of clangers. 'Sweetness Follows' is a song I can safely say I don't want to listen to. If I am preoccupied and it plays and I don't notice it coming on, then I will have listened to it, but if I am paying attention to what is on, I skip it without question.
'Man On The Moon' is a tribute song to Andy Kaufman the comedian from Taxi, and is a great track followed by what I consider to be the best on the album, 'Nightswimming'. It is a very powerfully emotionally charged ballad that will remain one of my favourite songs for a long time.
I rate this album at 3 stars. Yes, there are a couple of good hits, and as I said, 'Nightswimming' is one of my favourite songs of all time, but there are too many indiscrepancies in the middle for a higher rating for me.
The album is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £4.98 new, £0.49 used.
Thanks for reading.
I didn't really buy this album. I more stole it off my dad. All my life I've been listening to REM (I mean ALL my life), but until now, at the ripe old age of 13 have I really started to 'listen' to it. This is one of my all time favourite albums because of its versatility and diversity. 1. Drive 2. Try Not To Breathe 3. The Sidewinder sleeps tonight 4. Everybody hurts 5. New Orleans 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 I don't have time or energy to review all the songs on the album, but I'll try to get through most of them that make an impression on me. TRY NOT TO BREATHE This is a rally great song for singing to becuase the lyrics are distinct and clear, the bassline not quite as strong as Drive, but at least this one makes sense. THE SINDWINDER SLEEPS TONITE After close scrutiny, I think I've establishes that this song is about a payphone in a hotel. Right. This is very very upbeat and happy tune, however one of my friends thought that the chorus was sung in Afrikaans because its so indestinguishable, but I have now realised he says 'Call when you try to wake her'. Its one of those songs that I wish wouldnt end becuase it reminds me of my childhood and perks me up so much. EVERYBODY HURTS This is probably REM's most famous song, but while I think it's good, it's not one of my favourites. The guitar riff is unique, maintaining the tone throughout and the lyrics are simple, telling us of breakups and apologies. This isn't a song for unhappy people. It will only make you want to slit your wrists. SWEETNESS FOLLOWS I never thought I would ever say this about an REM track, but this officially stinks. This is the only REM song I have ever hated. It's a waste of album space
and I could write better lyrics than that. No offence. MAN ON THE MOON Yay! This is a good one. The life and loss of 'Taxi' comedian Andy Kaufman in a song. The chorus is instantly memorable and great lyrics lift this song from the album as a very strong track. NIGHTSWIMMING This is one of my all time favourite songs, the full, mellow piano part and the rich lyrics yearning to be hears. The words to this song are nothing short of miraculous, reaching out with lines such as 'Pining for the moon, but what if there were two, side by side in orbit, around the fairest sun'. For me it is the best song on the album and make me want to have the record on repeat just so I have Nightswimming to listen to. Please, if you're considering it, buy this album. You won't regret it.
An all time classic from one of the finest and most influential artist of the last 20 years, this album sits proudly in many music lovers collections! Starts off with "Drive" which puts you in the mood straight away,its an instantly recognisable REM song with the familiar guitar riffs and vocals of Michael Stipe. Also contains Sidewinder sleeps tonite which isnt a favourite of mine but achieved top ten status-i challenge u to reel off the lyrics!! Man on the moon and my own personal favourite Everybody hurts also achieved success for the band. Everbody hurts is a haunting ballad, something with which the band are very good at,the lyrics are very emotional and moody and it has been copied a few times since but none have quite matched the brilliance of REM. "Nightswimming" is another ballad which i like a lot,lovely vocals and powerfully sung. "New orleans instrumental" is a very unusual album filler seen as i cant remember the band doing instrumentals before or since! Other album fillers worthy of note and above average are "Sweetness follows" a pacy guitar number and "Ignoreland" which has a great intro and would undoubtedly have achieved success given a release. The album is a good mixture of the ballads,the poppy side of the band via "Man on the moon" and the more familiar guitar driven songs like "Drive" and "Try not to breathe". Every song hits the spot and serves a purpose. I cant really categorise the album which makes it suitable for any occasion. The album is REMs most successful to date and was in the album charts well over a year after release which signifies the quality of it. I enjoyed it emmensely when i first bought it and it still gets played regulary now ten years on bringing me hours of pleasure. Twelve nice songs and not short at 48 minutes and 55 seconds you certainly get
your monies worth. Wholly recommemded whether your a REM fan or not.
This is REM's best album by far. Its played in their typical stlye and the voice of lead singer is fantastic. Below is a run down of my favourite songs on the album. Drive - this is the first song on the album and is a typical gutiar based song. It is a good track and you'll like it. Try Not to Breath - This is quite a fast song, but to be honest i can't work out what he says in the lyrics, but that doesn;t make the sonmg bad. The Sidewinder Slleps tonight. - This is one of the best songs on the album, and is quite fast and up tempo. Again i'm not quite sure about the words in the chorus, but this is a brilliant song. Everybody Hurts - This is one of REM most famous songs. It is very slow, and quite a sad song, but believe me, i doubt there are mant people who don't like this song. Man on the Moon - this is probably the second best song on the album, and is very fast. If you are a bit upset after listening to Everybody Hurst, quickly put this on and you'll be happy again. This song is pure brilliance. The above are just a few of the better songs on the album in my opinion, but you'll find many more on it that you'll like more than me. If oyu've got other REM albums but not this one, then i recommend this to you, because its probably their best. Otherwise i still recommend it to you because its just great.
I can remember a friend of mine buying "Out of Time" for me about 10 years ago and I was floored. It was incredible! After that I went out and bought all the R.E.M. I could find. Then, when "Automatic For the People" came out I was astounded at how good it is. To me, this is the greatest album ever made. I mean that. It is so soulful, touching, mesmerizing, that I can't listen to it enough. I would say that I have definitely played it more than any other piece of music I own. I used to put it on most every night when I came home from work and it would take me away to a beautiful place inside. "Drive" is a groovin' kind of song. "Try Not To Breathe" is sad. "Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" is fun. "Everybody Hurts" is one of the greatest, most from-the-heart songs ever written. "Sweetness Follows" is bittersweet and heart-wrenching. "Monty Got A Raw Deal" is very catchy. "Ignoreland," totally rocks. "Star Me Kitten" glides, elegantly, as if ethereal and light as air (and I love the line "You, me...we used to be on fire"). "Man on the Moon" is GREAT REM...just so free and natural sounding, not forced at all. And the last two songs are the two masterpieces. "Nightswimming" is, in a word, gorgeous. I can't think of a better way to describe it. And "Find the River"...oh man...just perfect..."Watch the road and memorize this life that pass before my eyes, nothing is going my way." One of the best songs ever written. R.E.M. has been the greatest band out there for about 20 years now, rivaled only by the nearly as great U2. Michael Stipe is as soulful an artist as you'll find. He writes in a way that is original, personal and very much his own style. He never writes anything that sounds manipulative or cheesy. He writes in an original voice and style, sometimes very off the wall, but he is so great. And this album i
s the most perfect work R.E.M. ever created. But then, don't get me started...I love all their albums. If you are a fan of melodic, meaningful music, then you will love "Automatic For the People."
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.
Released on October 1992, this is an all time classic album and by far R.E.M.’s best ever. I can honestly say its one of the best albums ever and is one of the few albums in the world in which every track is good. The vocals are superb throughout as are all the instrumentals and solos. This is one of my favourite albums that I own, and I listen to it a lot. Many people thought Out of Time would be the bands album, so this had a lot to live up to, and it did not disappoint at all. It lived up to the expectations and just proved that the best can be beaten. Drive – A brilliant track to start the album with. A soft guitar solo at the starts sets the scene, the soft vocals then come in, without faltering, and this is the tone for the rest of the track. The vocals are brilliant all the way through and the lyrics are also very good and insightful. Try Not to Breathe – Very similar to the previous track. A soft guitar and also soft vocals throughout set the tone of the song. The only other considerable instrument is a soft drumbeat. I don’t really like this track very much. Although the lyrics are very good, I can’t seem to understand them. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite – This is a much happier and jolly track, I like it. It starts of pretty quick with a good drum and guitar track which gets you tapping your feet straightaway. The vocals then come in and are stunning. They are very strong, but not too loud. This is more like the R.E.M. that I like, a very good track. Everybody Hurts – Well, what can I say about this track that hasn’t been said about a thousand times before. The solo guitar solo at the start sets the mood, which is excellently played. The vocal come in, expertly sung all the way through. The lyrics are absolutely stunning and almost perfect for any occasion. I think this is the best R.E.M. song of all time and one of the best songs ever written. A ma
sterpiece. New Orleans Instrumental – This is an odd choice of song for this particular album. There are no vocals in it at all, its all instruments, hence the title. It mostly guitars I think. I don’t particularly like this song very much, probably because of the lack of vocals. Sweetness Follows – A nice song. Again a good short guitar solo at the start, with the somewhat ‘croaky’ vocals coming in. I’m not exactly sure what this song is about, but the lyrics are good, and the track in general is well sung. A nice slow song, similar to ‘Everybody Hurts’. Monty Got A Raw Deal – Another excellent guitar solo at the beginning with the vocals joining in after about ten seconds. They are well sung and the song is slow to begin with. Then the drums come in and the song gets slightly louder and quicker. Again I’m not sure what this song is about, but the lyrics are pretty good. The second half of the track is louder and faster than the first half. Ignoreland – I can’t decide whether I like this track or not. It has a long introduction before the vocals come in. The vocals are different and seem ‘distant’. I think this is one of the weakest tracks on the album. Star Me Kitten – I don’t know if I like this song or not either. It’s slow and ‘deep’ to begin with and it goes up and down. Its far too slow for my liking and I also think the vocals are poor, a poor song in my opinion. Man on the Moon – I really do like this track. There is another excellent guitar intro. at the start before the vocals come in. The lyrics are expertly sung. It starts of fairly slow, and you can feel it building up to something. The song gradually gets quicker and louder, this is good. The chorus comes on and I think this is when this song is at its peak. One of the best tracks on the album in my opin
ion. Nightswimming – This is a beautiful track. The piano intro. is very good, as are the vocals. Its generally a slow track. Its only the lead singer a single piano and a few violins throughout the whole track. I think this is good, because if more instruments were added, I feel it could spoil the track. The lyrics are complicated but still very good, an excellent track in general. Find the River – The final track on the album and a good one to finish off with. It has quite a long intro. with a guitar and an accordion(?). The vocals come in and are very soft and very well sung, they gradually get louder, but its not spoilt. A very nice track.
Rem are one of my favourite bands and of their albums this would have to be my favourite. Its just such a great album the first time I listened to it I liked it. That’s how good it is. Right from the start you can tell its great. The track listing is below 1.Drive 2.Try not to Breathe 3.The sidewinder sleeps tonight 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 The first three songs are great. Especially sidewinder sleeps tonight. Its just such a up tempo happy song. Then everybody hurts its such a good song. It just pulls at your heartstrings. However its not depressing, at least not to me. I don’t like the next song so much but I can still happily listen to it. Sweetness follows is a good song and is quite poignant. Monty got a raw deal is ok but not especially great. However the last four songs more than make up for it. I really like them and I would have to say that nightswimming is perhaps one of the most romantic songs ever.
I purchased this album because of the recommendation of a friend. He said it to be 'a masterpiece'. Once it arrived, I rushed to play it. And what was I greeted by? The overwhelming sound of powerful lyrics, and varying compositions. I say 'composition' because the word 'song' is an understatement; this album is saturated with brilliance. Play it through once, and you will be a little apprehensive. Put it in your walkman and listen to it whenever you can and you will become addicted to this musical ecstacy. Let REM take you on a violent ride through emotional heaven, and should succesfully near the end of the journey, you will be rewarded with three of the most beautiful pieces I have ever had the pleasure of treating my ears to. The famous 'Man on the moon' allows one to realise all that the human race has achieved, as well as orientate itself around Andy Kaufman. 'Nightswimming' is a deep track, powerful lyrics with lines such as 'The recklessness of water', lay over a dramatic piano accompaniment. And finally, 'Find the river', a song you will want to listen to for an eternity, and wish that all songs would have the ability to compare to such a brilliant, tear drawing experience. If you have any taste in music, I strongly prescribe this 'masterpiece' of an album, and recommend you prepare yourself, because you will never have heard anything so emotionally challenging.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Try not to breathe
3 Sidewinder sleeps tonite
4 Everybody hurts
5 New Orleans Instrumental No 1
6 Sweetness follows
7 Monty got a raw deal
9 Star me kitten
10 Man on the moon
12 Find the river
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Entire Album in 5.1 Surround Sound
2 Video Documentary
3 Photo Gallery