R.E.M. – Automatic for the People: #546 of best 1,000 albums ever!

R.E.M. - Automatic for the People

So why is R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

I’m an enormous fan of R.E.M. There are only a tiny number of songs of their large catalog that I don’t think is at least decent and listenable.

And I’m well aware that among the R.E.M. fan community, I’m a relative outlier in that Automatic for the People isn’t one of my most favorite albums of theirs. Now all of that being said, I’m placing Automatic in the #546 slot, which all told is a pretty esteemed slot.

This is the fun and the madness and the mania that goes into a best 1,000 albums ever project, I suppose.

I can give you some reasons – highly subjective reasons – why I don’t love Automatic quite as much as a number of other R.E.M. albums. Probably there are three main reasons, I suppose:

  • It was released during my freshman year of college at Binghamton University, in Binghamton, New York. While my overall college experience was truly phenomenal, most of my freshman year was pretty tough sledding in terms of transitioning to college life. Automatic kind of feels like a soundtrack for some rough days in retrospect.
  • And man, you couldn’t get away from the album either! My roommate, Bill, played it all the time and, frankly, I probably did as well. Chunks of Automatic still feel a little overplayed for me.
  • Automatic is kind of a melancholy album too, brooding in sound and mood and lyrically focused on death and mortality and meaning. Normally, I dig some good and somber R.E.M. but combined with the above factors, it’s not an album I look to throw on all that often.

Now, I’m going to partially contradict some of the above* and provide the reasons why, as a standalone album, I still find Automatic to be pretty great and well worthy of the #546 position.  

* In life and in art, we live in contradictions, what I can say? (Except quite a bit as it turns out!)

“Drive” is an astonishing musical achievement and does not apply at all to any of the things I state above. It’s one of my favorite R.E.M. songs, and I can listen to it endlessly. It’s got a hypnotic and catchy feel, its sound and its lyrics are mysterious and yet deeply soothing at the same time.

The “rock version” of “Drive” that R.E.M. would play live on tour is also insanely good.

The final two songs on Automatic, “Nightswimming” and “Find the River,” are both enchanting and beautiful and kind of turn the corner on the bummer mood of most of the rest of the album. “Man on the Moon” is quite good in its own right, but with that song I associate it with the movie of the same name, which is the Andy Kaufman biopic* starring Jim Carrey (spoiler alert: the movie’s well done but… also kind of a bummer).

* R.E.M. wrote “Man on the Moon” to honor Kaufman.

Also see: R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction: #638 of best 1,000 albums ever

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with R.E.M.’s Autobmatic for the People

On the super fun and outstanding podcast R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me? (it’s a whole thing, trust me), actor and co-host Adam Scott talks about how he’s one of the kids shaking a leg in the “Drive” video. Which… incredible.

No word on whether he got to chat with Peter Dollar Bill back then.

Some stats & info about R.E.M. – Automatic for the People

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Alternative Rock, Jangle Pop, College Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #96
  • All Music’s rating5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Automatic for the People released? 1992
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #546 out of 1,000

R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Smack, crack, bushwhacked, tie another one to your back, baby. Hey kids, rock and roll, nobody tells you where to go, baby.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.