It’s difficult to believe that R.E.M. was releasing their eighth album in the 90’s. I forget the band had been performing way before the decade it seems they are commonly associated with. As someone who isn’t located far from Athens, GA. I grew up being familiar with the band. I had honestly never been able to pinpoint their music though when I heard it on television or radio though.
History: Automatic for the People is one of R.E.M.’s more popular records. It’s considered one of the best rock records from the 90’s and it has sold 18 million copies. It spawned quite a few singles from the album as well including the popular, “Everybody Hurts.” The album deals with some interesting themes including the idea of loss. The guitarist, Peter Buck, was also turning 30 at this time and guided much of the albums tone in the dread of hitting the age.
Vocals: Michael Stipe is the well known vocalist of R.E.M. Stipe’s vocals seem to have the range that Neil Young’s do giving them a very staple sound that is easy to remember once you’ve heard them. His vocals match the whole tone of the album, and I like how the vocals and the vibe stays consistent. He does also throw in some cool vocal sounds to keep the album from getting old as well on songs like “Ignoreland”
Instrumentals: The instrumentals ended up being my favorite part of this album. I liked how Peter Buck played the acoustic and electric guitar throughout the album. One minute there is a very alternative vibe and then the next I feel like I’m listening to a folk tune. It’s just well blended to match whatever tone. Mike Mills played a variety of instruments including the bass guitar and piano, and Billy Berry provided on drums and percussion.
Recording: The 90’s vibe is there as far as the alternative music, and it does make me curious as to how the band sounded before they recorded this album. This album has held up well over time in sound and the aspects of instrumentals and vocals have kept it from sounding as much as part of the 90’s as other music has. Also, it runs for 48 minutes of music, but it doesn’t feel like it as you’re listening to the songs. Each song seems to have it’s own personality.
Automatic for the People is a creative endeavor that isn’t anything like I’ve heard before it the year it was released. It brings something new to the scene of 1992. The critics also really loved this album with most being positive reviews of the album. Over time it seems the reception has only gotten better for an album now considered a classic.
Rating 8 of 10.