Following the massive global success of their seventh studio album Out of Time (1991), R.E.M. were able to embrace a newfound creative freedom and flexibility, which empowered them to experiment with new recording approaches in the studio. The grand result arrived in early October of 1992 in the form of Automatic For The People, arguably the band’s greatest triumph in their prolific 15-albums-deep discography.
Filmed in conjunction with the LP’s 25th Anniversary in 2017 and the release of the album’s expansive super-deluxe edition, the short documentary film Automatic Unearthed finds Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck and a handful of key collaborators revisiting the making—and enduring legacy—of Automatic For The People. Particularly intriguing are the group’s first-hand accounts of how tracks like “Find the River,” “Man on the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts” were conceived and constructed.
“As an artist, as a writer, you’re trying to respond to the times, and you’re trying to allow your instinct to do the work,” Stipe confides early in the film. “Culturally, 1992 in America was not an easy place to be. We had been through twelve years of politically the darkest era America had ever seen, with Reagan and Bush and with AIDS. And I think the record, in a way, was a response to that. And I ended up writing a record about death and loss, and about transition. The biggest transition that we all know.”
Enjoy the film below and reacquaint yourself with the music videos that accompanied the album’s original release.