This month R.E.M. reissue Automatic for the People, their landmark album to celebrate its 25thAnniversary. The album will be available in a variety of formats, the most extensive of which is the Deluxe Anniversary Edition, which will feature the album in its entirety mixed in Dolby Atmos and will be totally remastered. After finishing promoting their previous 1991 album, the wonderful (in my opinion) Out of Time, work began on their eighth studio album AFTP which was released on 5th October 1992. The band had originally planned to deliver a more rocking album than its predecessor but organically it seemed that AFTP was too, also meant to be a more ballad-driven production as they experimented in the studio with different sounds and instruments. Essentially, due to the band reaching a certain point of maturity in their lives the album was mainly about loss and the process of grieving.
Everybody Hurts released as a single in 1993 peaked within the top 10 of the charts in several countries including the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada and became an anthem for the band. Other singles spawned from the album included Man on the Moon, Drive, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, Find the River and Nightswimming. The album has been lauded as one of the best rock albums of all time including worthy contributions from Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones who provided string arrangements on select tracks. It sold over eighteen million copies worldwide and received Grammy nominations in 1994 for Album of the Year. It was the album for a generation.
As well the original album, the 4-disc Deluxe Edition will also include a host of previously unreleased material selected by the band themselves. These include 20 never-before-heard demos from the LP’s sessions including Devil Rides Backwards and Mike’s Pop Song. On hearing this it’s a gentle love song by the REM bassist/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mills, that wouldn’t be out of place on Out of Time. Apparently, Mills hadn’t heard the track since 1992 and it came as “a very pleasant surprise”. Monty Got a Raw Deal has some gorgeous melodies on it as does the rest of the album with some poetic acoustics including bonus track Photograph featuring Natalie Merchant.
Also included in both the 2-disc 25th Anniversary and Deluxe Edition of the album—which was remastered from the original analog tapes by Stephen Marcussen—is a full live set, Live At The 40-Watt Club 11/19/92. This was performed in their hometown of Athens, GA, and was the band’s only live show that year.
As the album was remixed in Dolby Atmos by AFTP’s original producer and engineer, it gives the listener an immersive sound. Indeed, listening to the live version of Everybody Hurts on CD2 is completely engrossing as is the live version of Me in Honey (from Out of Time). The idea is to rekindle the emotions felt on first hearing the album in 1992. I love the live songs especially Finest Worksong on CD2 also.
The Deluxe Edition contains a 60-page book, with never-before-seen photos by Anton Corbijn and Melodie McDaniel, plus new interviews with all four band members. Also included is a companion Blu-ray, offering the Dolby Atmos mix, plus a high-resolution master of Automatic For The People, seven music videos and the original 1992 EPK video. Automatic For The People will also be reissued on 180-gram vinyl (with digital download card) and will be available across all digital and streaming outlets. CD3 contains demos including that of Drive, the aforementioned charming Mike’s Pop Song and Bill’s Acoustic (which is a beautifully mellow piece of guitar).
The band’s career spanned three decades (forming in 1980), as they became noted for their contribution to alternative rock. After being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 they disbanded cordially in 2011. From small, indie beginnings they grew to massive success and popularity resulting in this album, which 25 years on, reminds you of its quality. Whilst this is not my favourite REM album (that goes to Out of Time) the whole re-issue pays homage to a truly respected timeless band.