My junior high years were filled with a myriad of musical tastes. For a white girl in a small Southern Illinois town of only 2,800, how I managed to listen to Radiohead and Dr. Dre all at the same time is beyond me. I still pride myself on the fact that despite some obvious misteps (Bryan Adams, anyone?), two of my favorite albums from that time period are R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People and Monster.
I had the biggest crush on Michael Stipe when I was fourteen years old. Once I saw him on the cover of Details, and I bought the magazine so I could hang that shot on my bedroom wall. I still remember the interview with him: his favorite color is peach, and we share the same birthday, January 4th.
When I read that Stereogum put together a tribute to Automatic for the People with artists like Blitzen Trapper, Rogue Wave, and Dr. Dog contributing tracks from that classic album, I nearly wept. Matthew Perpetua, Fluxbog founder and “R.E.M. savant” has written an extremely insightful essay about the transcental nature of Automatic to accompany the tribute.
The word “transcendental” is so accurate. “Everybody Hurts” was once the perfect soundtrack to my pubescent angst, and now it’s a lament about the universality of pain. “Nightswimming” was once a rumination of grown-up love that I didn’t quite understand and now it’s a reflection of the puppy love to which sometimes I long to return. “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” has remained a staple over the years as the perfect go-to driving-with-the-windows-down song. Some things don’t change.
Thank you, Stereogum, for reminding me once again of this album’s greatness. I know what I’ll be listening to tonight…and all week.
Download Drive XV: A Tribute to Automatic for the People here.