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163 of 175 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2001
AFTP is easily one of the best CDs of the `90s.
"Drive" sets the tone for the album. It sounds much like a funeral march. From the first five notes, it's direction is clear: dark, moody, and foreboding ... you know the this is no ordinary CD ... there are no "shining happy people" here ...
AFTP begins by tackling the decision to live or die. "Try Not to Breathe" is about deciding to die. It presents the thoughts of an old man who has lived a full life and has decided that he is ready to go. He muses what the world will be like without him and how he'll be remembered when he's gone.
"Everybody Hurts" is about deciding to live. The case is made that hurting is a necessary and temporary part of life ... it's not a reason to give up. Nor do we hurt alone. The lyrics and melody are nakedly simple and direct.
"Sweetness Follows" is about the healing and perspective that the death of a loved one can sometimes bring. The image is of the death of a loved one who was made more distant by a preoccupation with the banal, everyday concerns of life. Their death is a wake up call to forget the little things and recognize the power of the relationships with those we love.
"Man on the Moon" is probably the best known of the songs on AFTP. It wonders aloud ... what is it like in heaven? The human beings of the ages (Moses, Newton, and Darwin) are used to evoke a sense of an infinite hereafter. One wonders, what does someone like Andy Kaufman do in heaven amidst the likes of Moses? Well, Andy Kaufman is there, still "goofing on" Elvis, still wrestling, and still having breakfast with Mr. Blassie. Maybe it's not such a serious place after all.
"Nightswimming" is a bullet through the heart. I've heard it described as a song about nostalgia, but I think it's much more than that. It's a regretful look at a path not taken viewed from the wisdom obtained from the passage of time. The image is of someone driving alone at night wistfully looking at the image on a precious old photograph sitting on the dashboard. Swimming at night is a metaphor for the memory of a moment at the crossroads, facing a choice that involved playing it safe, or taking a personal, reckless risk of exposure.
The picture, like the memory it represents, is turned away ... as if it's painful to see But just like the picture on the windshield, turned around for all to see, the memory is worn like a badge:
"The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago, turned around backwards so the windshield shows."
The haunting image comes and goes with each passing streetlight. Although the image is seen backwards, the hindsight made possible by the passing of time reveals a significance of the moment that was not fully understood at time:
"Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse. Still, it's so much clearer."
With the passage of time, the fears (and the vitality that go with them) are gone and replaced by the tedium of everyday life ...
"These things they go away, replaced by every day"
... but the longing remains, and now with profound regret. He's left with a bittersweet memory of what was and the fantasy of what might have been:
"Nightswimming, remembering that night. September's coming soon. I'm pining for the moon. And what if there were two; side by side in orbit around the fairest sun? That bright, tight forever drum could not describe nightswimming."
"The photograph reflects, every streetlight a reminder. Nightswimming deserves a quiet night."
All of these achingly personal lyrics are accompanied with the stark loneliness of Stipe's voice and a wonderfully sad but sweet piano melody. "Nightswimming" is the brightest star in an album full of celestial wonders.
Nightswimming is a tough act to follow, but "Find the River" pulls that off nicely. It uses a flowing river as a metaphor for the passing of life. The image is one of a solitary soul floating down a river watching his life pass before his eyes, throwing aromatic fruit and spices as if he was sowing seeds. The river flows toward its inexorable but natural end at the ocean, just as life flows toward inevitable death.
"The river to the ocean goes, a fortune for the undertow. None of this is going my way. There is nothing left to throw of Ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem and rose of hay. Strength and courage overrides the privileged and weary eyes of river poet search naivete. Pick up here and chase the ride. The river empties to the tide. All of this is coming your way."
The repeated use of the phrase "nothing is going my way" is a reminder that the journey of life, especially at the end, is one that everyone takes alone.
A final brilliant aspect of "Find the River" is the way that it ends. Unexpectedly ... almost suddenly ... with a lot of loose ends untied. Just like life.
If you're looking for happy melodies and easy to digest lyrics, look elsewhere ... AFTP is not for you. But if you're looking for a companion on a guided tour of your soul, this is it. There are good reasons why so many people think AFTP is one of the best CDs of the 90s. It is.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 1999
"Automatic For The People" is truly one of the greatest albums of all time. Its use of compelling imagery makes it one of the most passionate and emotional albums that this or any other band has ever released. "Automatic" is fully worthy of every one of the fifty-million-plus people worldwide who have bought it. I say without hesitation that I belive it surely will go down in history as one of the greatest albums of all time.
"Drive" is a great album opener. Its moody, somber strains and downbeat, dark riffs give it a serious and powerful feel. It reflects the entire feel of the album.
"Try Not To Breathe" is a passionate and serious look at life and its dilemmas.
"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" is a catchy but serious expression of Michael Stipe's opinion of American pop culture. It is lyrically and musically a great pop song that has decptively real undertones.
"Everybody Hurts" is without question the most heartfelt, sincere and emotional song to ever hit the airwaves of American radio. It is a passionate and soulful plea to teenagers thinking life isn't worth living. It is inspiring, uplifting, and thoroughly beautiful. Asong of true hope and inspiration for the lost.
"New Orleans Instrumental No. 2" is a great follow-up to "Everybody Hurts", allowing the listener to take a deep breath and reflect on what they just heard. As sadly beautiful as anything.
"Sweetness Follows" is a direct contrast to "Everybody Hurts". It is a song about death and depression. Dramatic both lyrically and musically.
"Monty Got a Raw Deal" is a strange mix of contrasts: the fast-paced beat below Stipe's slowly balladeering voice, the catchy guitar riff under his monotonous and serious tone. An effective way to open the "Ride" side of this album.
"Ignoreland" is the most viciously political song ever recorded. Severe and harsh both musically and lyrically, Stipe paints an apocalyptic picture of America's future. Kudos to Stipe on the incredible lyrics. This song was an inkling of things to come on "Monster".
"Star Me Kitten" is a beautiful, passionate song of lost love that lazily floats its way through the middle of "Ride". It is a stark contrast, the polar opposite, of "Ignoreland".
"Man On the Moon" is a deceptively serious, sad song about Stipe's hero, comedian Andy Kaufmann. "It's about a great journey, one we must all take", Stipe is known to say when introducing it in concert.
"Nightswimming" is a starkly beautiful, melodiously passionate song about lost innocence of past days of youth. Its lyrics are simple in appearance, but it may be a criticism of society's infatuation with "faster, higher, farther",in the pursuit of which gets lost small pleasures, like nightswimming.
"Find the River" is a soft, sad, emotional album closer, one of the most insistently beautiful songs on the album. This, more than any other song, sums up the soft moodiness of the entire album.
These things considered, the darkly beautiful "Automatic For The People", with its serious and dramtically emotional overtones, is one of the most stunningly compelling collection of songs ever put on the market. R.E.M. proved their collective intellect with this album is as high as any other person's. Thank you for giving us this work, R.E.M. May it be one of the few that endure history.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 1999
I own 400 Cd's. Out of those 400, i have maybe 10 Five star albums. This is one of them. REM hit a peak with this record that most bands can only dream about. The songs, which string together and bring forth the true definition of an "album", are flawless. With "Drive", lead singer Michael Stipe, while he could scream his feelings into the song, tell the youth of America: "Hey, kids, rock and roll, nobody tells you where to go" almost in a whisper. His whisper and his feelings are found throughout the album, and are very effective. From "Try Not To Breathe" to "Find The River", The underlying theme is melencoly. The songs are sad, but at the same time, uplifting. In "Try Not to Breathe", Stipe sings about needing to "fly over my grave again", while in "Everybody Hurts", he tells the whole world, and i'm sure many people that have contemplated suicide, to "hold on". The whole time the music behind him, provided by guitarist Peter Buck, bassist and keyboardist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry, flow right along with the words. I think there is more use of e-minor on this album then on any other in the history of music. However, Buck uses this chord more effectivly then anyone, making it sound as fresh and melodic as it can be. All three musicians sounds as tight as ever, building the songs from scratch and presenting them to the world with striking beauty. I feel that this ablum stands next to Radiohead's "OK Computer" as the best album of the 90's, and for any true music lover out there, this is a must.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 1999
This album, like many others of R.E.M., sneaks up on you after numerous playings. It is that rare album where each song forms an audio part of a bigger picture, and the dark nature of some of the songs doesn't at all make it depressing, but rather rich with human experience and emotion. If you can't listen to Nightswimming without becoming nostalgic for lost youth and innocence, or listen to Man on the Moon without joining in the chorus with a smile on your face then maybe you're playing too many N'Sync and Brittany Spears albums and assuming that they are great pop artists. One of my favorite moments on the album is during the opening song, Drive, where the lead guitar suddenly kicks in after a long, brooding, slightly sinister build up, and all the supressed intensity suddenly bursts forth. And if you're used to lyrics so predictable your baby sister could write them , then R.E.M. will come as a major surprise. Intelligent, convoluted, rich with imagery, and sometimes mysterious, they add that extra 'literary' touch that Paul Simon and John Lennon used to use to elevate their songs above the ordinary.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1999
This disk is on my CD player right now, and I'm listening to "Everybody Hurts". I can listen to this song 1,000 times and love it (and I can watch the video on MTV 100 times and get all teary and choked up every time). "Drive" is astonishing in its musicality. "Man on the Moon" is a great tribute. Quite a few people in Latvia, where I live, have had close encounters with REM, because Michael Stipe has made himself very available to Eastern European reporters when he's been in this neck of the woods. I wish I had been one of them, 'cause I'd just like to shake his hand and say "Thank you". "Automatic for the People" is simply magnificent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Quiet and gentle for most of the album, this CD encompasses more emotions then 20 of the top pop albums do combined today. While speaking politically through many of the songs, R.E.M. also speaks of deeper things.
"Drive" - "Smack, Crack, Bushwacked.." The first song on album that discusses George Bush the first. This song goes either way. You can look at it from the Bush perspective, or the idea that the singer is discussing the growing problem of drug use in teenagers. Neither of these have been confirmed by the R.E.M. camp in typical R.E.M. fashion. Beautiful and powerful use of strings.

"Try Not To Breathe" - this song addresses the idea of the right to suicide if you're old and dying. Sample Lyric - "I will try not to breathe, this decision is mine, I've lived a full life, these eyes are the eyes of the old, that shiver in the cold". This song seems contridictory to "Everybody Hurts", but in reality it was only talking about the issue of the right to die, and presenting a view from an old person.
"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" - the yodel is borrowed from "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Not sure what they were trying to say with this song. It's catchy, and the first happy song on the album. The video to go with this song doesn't explain it either.
"Everybody Hurts" - An excellent song about Suicide Provention. The main idea is easy, Everybody Hurts Sometimes. This song has gotten me through some tough times. Just the idea that I'm not the only one out there in pain and going through bad things keeps me going. I know it does for many people.
"New Orleans Instrumental #1" - A showcase for the talents of the "other 3" Bill Berry, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills. A great R.E.M. song doesn't have to have lyrics. Personally though I prefer "Endgame" from Out Of Time to this one.
"Sweetness Follows" - When I went to a R.E.M. concert on the Up tour of 1999, this song was introduced as Peter Buck's favorite. It discusses the death of your parents, and the pain that comes with the loss. No one can understand the pain unless they've been there and this song conveys that.
"Monty Got a Raw Deal" - My Favorite Song of the Album. Very emotional, loud at times. The Monty that is addressed in the title has been thought to be Montgomery Ward. Even better live.
"Ignoreland" - This song doesn't fit in with the rest of the album. It's probably the precursor to "Bad Day" off of In Time, even though the original is older. It's a "spleen-venting" rant against the republicanism of Reagan and Bush. It's sad that this song is still revelvant 10+ years later. "Ignoreland" would have fit better on Monster I believe.
"Star Me Kitten" - In Peter Buck's words "It's a real perverse love song". It's one of the few R.E.M. songs I know with the f bomb in it. Star Me Kitten wasn't the original title. I'll let you do the math. If they had used their title for this song they would have gotten a Parental Advisory Label.
"Man on The Moon" - The song about Andy Kaufmann, that led to the movie with Jim Carrey. This was written by Bill and Peter, and it seems at time they have two different songs going. Some of the cultural references you may have to look up.
"Nightswimming" - Gourgeous beautiful lush song. Mike Mills plays a beautiful piano piece in this song. In this song, the singer is mourning the loss of being able to go "nightswimming". It's looking back on your teenage years when you could go skinny dipping, and that would be the riskiest thing you could do. The simplicity of the time shines through.
"Find the River" - Yet another mourning song, but this one seems more intereptretive. You can take the lyrics to mean many different things. Everyone seems to have a different thought on it. But what most people can agree with is it's one of the best R.E.M. songs ever written, and probably the most overlooked.
When the good people at Amazon considered this an essential CD, they were right. Pick it up and find out for yourself!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2010
This album came out during a time in my life when I had lost a job that I loved, for reasons that were about nothing but sexual discrimination. After losing my job; I was evicted from an apartment I'd been living in for eight years. For the first time in my life I was homeless, very angry, extremely afraid, and depressed in the most dark and painful way ever. I became very self-destructive, hopeless, purposeless, and dead. I was staying at a friends apartment for a while, and when I discovered that that friend was not a true and caring friend; I dived though a glass window from a 30 feet balcony. I severely fractured my skull, put myself in a coma, lost my ability to walk and talk for 13 months. While I was in the hospital for rehabilitation, a friend brought me some music he thought might be uplifting; and "Automatic For The People" was one I listened to everyday. There were three songs that effected me deeply. EVERYBODY HURTS made me cry, and at the same time made me angry. Sure everybody does hurt; but not everybody is capable of dealing with hurt. I wanted the tell Michael Stipe to shut his damn mouth; but I still listened to the song everyday. The second song that I like to hate was TRY NOT TO BREATHE. Again I found myself spilling out the foulest of words at Michael Stipe; because I thought he was telling me that no matter how many times I might try to kill myself, that it will never work for a reason. I cursed at Michael Stipe big time about this song. But I guess I really liked it more than I was willing to admit at the time. The third song the pissed me off had a title that elevated my blood pressure. SWEETNESS FOLLOWS I thought was trying to tell me that a sweetness in life is waiting for me, and that was why all of my attempts at suicide had not been successful. I hated this song, and I liked it at the same time. I am still healing from an acute head trauma, and I still listen to this album a lot.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2000
This is the pinnacle of the band's achievements and this cannot be disputed. REM has come a long way since the early days of college music and Michael Stipe having mustard in his hair. If the enormous success of Out of Time didn't establish them as one of the greatest bands of the 80's & 90's, this album leaves absolutely no doubt about that!
REM tones things down on this masterpiece and makes wide ranging social commentary. "Drive" starts by instucting voters not to get "Bushwhacked" in the line "smack, crack, bushwhacked, tie another one to the rack, baby". The hauntingly beautiful "Everybody Hurts" has won numerous MTv awards and these are all justified. Many critics believe that this suicide ballad is very depressing, but upon closer inspection it is in fact an incredibly uplifting song. "Take comfort in your friends" and "you are not alone" shows that there is hope and solice to be found in those around us. "Try not to Breathe" is often refered to as commenting on euthanasia and Dr. Death's practises. "monty got a Raw Deal" discusses the life and career of actor Montgomery Cliff and the happenings during his life. The legendary Andy Kaufman is immortalised in the track "Man on the Moon" and later in the movie by the same name. the orchestral arrangement on "Nightswimming" is breathtaking while the final track "Find the River" leaves us a hope-filled final line:"All of this is coming your way".
Comparisons will always be made. It is important not to make this comparison according to sales figures, but based on the contribution that an album makes to the industry. This album's value cannot be underestimated. It has severed as inspiration to artists like the late Kurt Cobain, Counting Crows and Live. Some have gone as far as to compare it favourable to the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's".
This is a must have album, not only to fans of the band, but to lovers of exceptional music.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 1999
I remember when I first bought this CD in 1992. I was disinterested in little more than "Nightswimming" when I first heard it, but over the years and with repeated listenings, "Automatic for the People" gets better and merits placement with "Reckoning" and "Murmur" as one of the best rock recordings by any group in the last 20 years. The number of positive reviews by other customers confirms this.
The songs are well-crafted, although they have fewer of the delicious guitar and mandolin hooks that drew me to other R.E.M. works such as "Green" and "Out of Time". Stipe's lyrics are simply incredible and beautifully sensitive. I have only two minor complaints: "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" seems out of place on this disc, and "Ignoreland" has a feel and sound about it that seem better suited to a different R.E.M. CD (love the lyrics, though)!
Of particular note are "Everybody Hurts", which is a song of redemption and hope. Musically, it's beautiful and ranks up there with "Perfect Circle" and "You are the Everything" as one of the best.
In a similar vein, "Nightswimming" recalls youth and innocence left behind. Somehow it coincides with this album's release (October, 1992) and brings back feelings of wistfulness for last summer.
"Monty Got a Raw Deal" is a dark and foreboding tribute to Montgomery Clift with some very tasty mandolin licks, courtesy of Peter Buck.
"Star Me Kitten" is a dreamy song with a sensuous guitar hook that works exceptionally well.
"Man on the Moon" is okay, but I wasn't a big fan of Andy Kaufman when he was alive, so I don't really understand the significance of this song.
One rather negative customer reviewer earlier said that "you'd thank him" for not buying "Automatic for the People". Disregard him. A few listenings of this extraordinary CD will make you glad you did.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 1999
11 studio albums is quite an achievement in music today... that they are all very good (YES! even Monster!)is an even better achievement. It certainly isn't R.E.M.'s most consistent album. The instrumental is nice but not essential, 'Ignoreland' is full of good intentions but a bit clumbsy and while '..Sidewinder..' is a great single it's totally out of place on this album. The remaining 9 songs however are beyond good. It's hard to define it but in a way that's the point. It's simple, sometimes even direct but this isn't music to stand back and admire, it's music to pick you back up. I don't know if technically it's the best album of all time but if I could only take 2 albums with me to a desert island I'd take this......twice. It explores the darkest themes but sounds uplifting. 'Sweetness Follows' is the unappreciated classic, 'Star me Kitten' is drop dead gorgeous and only Michael Stipe could sing 'Everybody Hurts' and make it sound so sincere. 'Man On The Moon' is still wonderful and forms the first third of the greatest finish to any album ever made. As the last guitar strums begin to fade and Michael Stipe whispers "All of this is coming your way", you start to think that everything will turn out alright.
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