Outta the way people, certified classic coming through! Automatic For The People, unleashed twenty-five years ago, firmly established R.E.M. as a massive globe-straddling band, with hits including ‘Everybody Hurts’ and ‘Nightswimming’. Now here is an anniversary reissue to celebrate, ranging from a straight-up vinyl edition to a sprawling 3CD and Blu Ray collection with demos, a live show, and more besides.
9/10 Clinton Staff review, 06 November 2017
The original CD of this is currently getting bleached by the unseasonal sun on the dash of my Honda Civic. It looks great up there - it's commercial enough to show passers by that I'm not the indie obscurist I'm sometimes unfairly painted out to be, but also it's REM's most poetic and dark album that maybe once the dust settles will be seen as their very best.
The original LP is a brilliant thing that manages to still be exceptional despite containing three of REM's very worst ever moments in 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight' (ok this one would be fine on a different LP), 'Everybody Hurts' and 'Ignoreland'. The rest is exemplary, sublime music which has a rusted, sepia tone to it which somehow manages, at the height of their fame, to hark back to the rural idyll REM explored on earlier albums such as 'Fables of the Reconstruction'. Everything has a naturalistic quality from the woody guitar textures to Stipe's careworn voice. The lyrics are about...um...death yet the music is constantly reassuring in that way that REM often manage to be. Whereas some of their work now sounds a little obvious in places perhaps lacking some depth, 'Automatic...' is a layered textural thing that winds up with two of the best things REM ever recorded with the startling, poetic 'Nightswimming' and the sun-blushed pastoral 'Find the River'- a song which never fails to reveal its dappled beauty. The absolute high point of their acoustic era with gorgeous organs swirling beneath flecked guitars and understated drums.
This 25th anniversary edition is frustrating for those short of huge wads of cash in that the double CD comes only with an interesting but surely inessential live set, one of the few they played at the time of the albums' release. But all the demos and extras which surely would be of great interest are tucked away on the very expensive box set. I can only growl with fury that a band so wealthy need to do this. A double CD with all the demos would surely sell shitloads.
But hey ho this is the way of the world. Even on it's own, 'Automatic...' is something special. The album really that if we now look back on their career arc is the album REM should have finished on. Just imagine their legacy if they had.
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