In the first part of our two part Classic Album Special, we look at the 8th album from Athens, Georgia alternative rock megastars R.E.M., 1992’s Automatic for the People.
After a decade in the US indie underground R.E.M. had achieved a significant mainstream breakthrough after signing to Warners and releasing 1988’s Green and 1991’s Out of Time albums. The latter turned the band into near household names with the success of Losing My Religion, so when they came to record a new album they did so with the pressure of following up a legitimate smash hit. As if that wasn’t enough the musical landscape had been changed hugely with the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, which made the alternative rock of a band like R.E.M. now the hottest sound in music. But, rather than copy the previous album or try and incorporate the sounds of bands that they themselves influenced, R.E.M. stood staunchly to the belief that their own artistic vision was all that mattered. That vision was to lean on their own sense of mortality as frontman Michael Stipe suffered a series of losses in his personal life and wrestled with feelings of grief and thoughts of his own mortality. It resulted in a record that is slower, more melodic, grander and thematically more reflective than anything that was happening in music at the time. Despite the risks, Automatic for the People would go on to become an even bigger success than any of their previous material, spawning a series of hit singles that remain staples of mainstream rock to this very day.
Go to patreon.com/riotactpodcast to hear part two