Automatic For The People – REM (1992); Track-by-Track review

Automatic For The People


In 1994, the music world was shocked by the death of Kurt Cobain and by Whitney Houston winning the Grammy for Album of the Year…

…and one of the albums Whitney beat at that ceremony was the soundtrack to Kurt’s final play…

Automatic For The People
Automatic For The People perched symbolically atop Nirvana’s Nevermind.

(song titles in caps)

Michael is passed upon the crowd as nervous vocals rises above the alt-folk guitarial peaks and troughs on DRIVE. A perfect mood-setter.

Themes of uncertainty and a fearful approach to an unforgiving world permeate AFTP and TRY NOT TO BREATHE is an exemplar. Hear every string.

Leonine melody of THE SIDEWINDER SLEEPS TONITE masks dark tones: a sleeping woman compared to a viper. Call me when you try to wake her up!

Signature songs don’t come more redolent than EVERYBODY HURTS, both of REM and lack of sleep. An emotive, beautiful, visceral masterpiece.

NEW ORLEANS INSTRUMENTAL NO.1 gives us all a chance to relax between Side A and Side B. Album could do without this needless 2:13.

Grief and guilt live inside the paired down SWEETNESS FOLLOWS. A funereal horn denouement – “lost in our little lives” – and, finally, hope.

Tragic pop culture figures recur throughout REM’s ouvre: MONTY GOT A RAW DEAL tells of M.Clift’s struggle with identity; Stipe empathises.

IGNORELAND is musically similar to REM’s breakout track End Of The World; but Stipe no longer feels fine: disgusted at political discourse.

Dangerous lives hurl together like asteroids in sinister STAR ME KITTEN. Fears for feline crossing this threshold. Use of ‘star’ intrigues.

Darwin, Elvis, Moses, Newton, Cleopatra, *Andy Kaufman* and games aplenty on the incredible MAN ON THE MOON. How can anyone not believe?

“They cannot see me naked” is such an ironic lyric. By the piano driven, autumnal NIGHTSWIMMING we have seen every inch and it is angelic.

AFTP closes on the optimistic FIND THE RIVER, a melody that pleases aurally and olfactorily. A maudlin bildungsroman LP that demands replay.

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