The Sidewinder Sleeps, Sleeps, Sleeps In A POLL: REM's "Automatic For The People"

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One of the most oddly divisive records in their catalog, I think - although maybe this thread will prove otherwise? I inherited it as an already-canonized classic by the time I became an R.E.M. fan circa New Adventures - but I recognize that for others it's the epitome of everything that went wrong with the band in the Warner era, too self-serious, too ponderous, too intelligible. I still love it, though "Ignoreland" sticks out like a sore thumb to me. Thoughts?

Alternate poll titles:

Hey, Kids, Rock And POLL
Sweetness POLLows
A Little Agit For The Never POLLiever
POLL Me When You Try To Wake Her
So POLLd On, POLLd Onnnnnn
Coriander, Stamen, POLLs of Hay

Poll Results

OptionVotes
"Drive" – 4:31 16
"Find the River" – 3:50 15
"Nightswimming" – 4:16 14
"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" – 4:06 6
"Man on the Moon" – 5:13 6
"Sweetness Follows" – 4:19 5
"New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" – 2:13 4
"Try Not to Breathe" – 3:50 4
"Star Me Kitten" – 3:15 3
"Everybody Hurts" – 5:17 2
"Ignoreland" – 4:24 1
"Monty Got a Raw Deal" – 3:17 1


Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 00:13 (ten years ago) link

Still a week-ish to go on this one, btw: POLL The Way To Reno: REM's "Reveal"

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 00:13 (ten years ago) link

Besides Fables of the Reconstruction, the REM album I listen to least, although a better album. "Monty Got A Raw Deal" makes its points quickly and creepily, so I voted for that. "Find a River" is pretty beautiful though.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 00:15 (ten years ago) link

I've always liked "Drive" a lot. Great video, too.

scourge of cords (Z S), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 00:24 (ten years ago) link

"Nightswimming" (sorry)

Someone Still Loves You Evan and Jaron (Tape Store), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 00:52 (ten years ago) link

Tie for me between "Try Not To Breathe" and "Ignoreland." Why do people hate the latter so much?

^likes tilt-a-whirls (Pancakes Hackman), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 01:07 (ten years ago) link

see this thread: rem's 'ignoreland'

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 01:17 (ten years ago) link

"find the river," because i tend to forget about it and then i'm surprised by it.

i said this on one of the other threads, but this is an album i like a lot without completely loving. i think it's a justified pop classic, it's just a little too sure of itself or something. but lots of great songs.

tipsy mothra, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 01:38 (ten years ago) link

This is the only REM record that has really worked for me. I'm going "Man on the Moon" for the whole package -- song, lyrics, video.

Eazy, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 01:44 (ten years ago) link

POLL me kitten

shook pwns (omar little), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 01:45 (ten years ago) link

New Orleans Instrumental!

iatee, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:01 (ten years ago) link

Tough decision, but I'm going with "Sweetness Follows," barely edging out "Sidewinder.." & "Try Not to Breathe"

(Pillboxxx) (Pillboxx) (Pillbox), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:17 (ten years ago) link

wow tough, but sidewinder has always been very special to me so i vote that

winston, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:22 (ten years ago) link

Who's willing to bet that the biggest single placest lowest? Highly possible, I say.

(Pillboxxx) (Pillboxx) (Pillbox), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:28 (ten years ago) link

*places

(Pillboxxx) (Pillboxx) (Pillbox), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:28 (ten years ago) link

lol that reminded me of this:

(Pillboxxx) (Pillboxx) (Pillbox), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:38 (ten years ago) link

"Find the River" shall be played at my funeral.

Bud Dickman, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:39 (ten years ago) link

I ordinarily wouldn't vote for the short instrumental in an album poll and there are other songs I like a lot, but "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" is a gorgeous little piece.

some dude, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:42 (ten years ago) link

Yep -- my favorite R.E.M. instrumental.

Speaking of which, possible poll...?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:43 (ten years ago) link

This is seriously tough. Love "Drive". Love "Try Not To Breathe". Love "Find The River". Love "Monty Got a Raw Deal". But in the end it has to be "Man On The Moon".

The best R.E.M. album ever!

Geir Hongro, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:44 (ten years ago) link

Hey, Kids, Rock And POLL
Sweetness POLLows
A Little Agit For The Never POLLiever
POLL Me When You Try To Wake Her
So POLLd On, POLLd Onnnnnn
Coriander, Stamen, POLLs of Hay

Automatic For The Pee-Poll ;)

Geir Hongro, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:45 (ten years ago) link

Who's willing to bet that the biggest single placest lowest?

A few lurker votes will probably help it beat some of the most ignored tracks. Never liked "Everybody Hurts" much though, although the video was kind of cool.

Geir Hongro, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:47 (ten years ago) link

I'm one of the people who boringly dumps on this album whenever it comes up so this is a nice chance to say what I like about it. When it came out, I would have said "Try Not To Breathe" or "Sidewinder" but I don't think these have aged well, and now it's "Sweetness Follows." Or at least that's how I remember it -- I have this on cassette and haven't heard it in ~5 years.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:49 (ten years ago) link

Anyone heard the 5:1 mix of this album? Actually one of the most beautiful 5:1 mixes I've heard.

Geir Hongro, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:50 (ten years ago) link

most ignored tracks - I dunno. Based on posts thusfar, it seems possible that the objectively least track (NOI#1) will trump the objectively largest. Fine by me.

(Pillboxxx) (Pillboxx) (Pillbox), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 02:50 (ten years ago) link

This is actually the hardest one of these so far for me - there is a LOT of really great material on this, very well-performed - basically all of these are, I think honestly among the best songs this band ever recorded:

"Try Not to Breathe" – 3:50
"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" – 4:06
"Everybody Hurts" – 5:17
"Sweetness Follows" – 4:19
"Monty Got a Raw Deal" – 3:17
"Man on the Moon" – 5:13
"Nightswimming" – 4:16
"Find the River" – 3:50

A few are a bit marred by production; there's a kind of booming emptiness to "Monty" that feels awkward, like a weird attempt to get back to their Document/Green sound. But the song is rock solid. I can't even pick in random match-ups of these songs - "Sidewinder" vs. "Find The River"? I love them for really different reasons but I think they're both perfectly executed. That perfect execution may be some of what turns people off of this album - this is NOT a tentative record by people trying to figure out the tools available to them, or in any sense an experiment - they walked in ready to make a "classic" for better or for worse.

Gun to my head - "Find the River," "Sidewinder," or "Nightswimming." But you'd have to start counting to three before I'd be able to pick between 'em.

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 03:05 (ten years ago) link

"Sweetness." It's got cellos.

(Most Valuable Player award goes to John Paul Jones)

Hideous Lump, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 03:16 (ten years ago) link

cellos & tremolo guitars. at the same time (swoon).

(Pillboxxx) (Pillboxx) (Pillbox), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 03:21 (ten years ago) link

i want to vote for 'ignoreland' cuz it's so different from everything else on there.

but scrolling over the tracks, it quickly becomes apparent that 'find the river' is my preferred song these days.

Charlie Howard, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 03:44 (ten years ago) link

Find The River for being the best example of REM at their most beautiful (you see what I did there?)

Guilty_Boksen, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 12:59 (ten years ago) link

i like the shrillness of 'ignoreland'... the whole album's great, and great as a whole, and i can't help but wonder if i'm choosing 'find a river' because its just so perfect a close for so perfect a record.

it has the darkness, the elegiac tone, but also the germ of optimism and sweetness.

Idle speculation: is "Sidewinder" a kind of dry run for "Hope"? The hospital setting seems easily possible: bad food, scratched-up payphone, heartbeats trying to wake up, etc. But while on "Hope" the gravity of the situation is acknowledged (even as the patient tries to escape it through various understandable hopes), on "Sidewinder" both the visiting friend and the band themselves are trying to play it off, cheer up the sick friend with inside jokes. The bridge comes closer to the truth, longing for the simplicity of childhood - or maybe it's that the patient is a kid and Stipe is reading to her, coming to a halt to report that she has successfully fallen asleep.

I dunno - but there's a really interesting tension in this song between its obvious jokiness and a kind of sadness around the edges that I can't quite verbalize.

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 13:51 (ten years ago) link

I always thought that the person being sung about in "Sidewinder" is dead already, or has been written off by the narrator as dead already.

This album is too personal for me to say much about on here. It came out at one of my most emo times of life, just off to college thousands of miles from home, like a complete unknown. I'd gone so far because nobody tells me where to go, baby. REM had been my favorite band for years, and growing up in Georgia their work spoke to me physically: I knew those places they sung about. My mother sent me Automatic in a care package (I hadn't asked) and it ripped me apart. I spent a dark-ish night of the soul about a month ago with it and it still hits home. I voted for "Drive" Doing my best to articulate why in public language: because nobody tells me what to do, baby. But freedom has costs, not just for those left behind, but for the one leaving. "Drive" pairs what reads on paper as a celebration of freedom with a serious lament of a tune, funeral organ standing out. It continues to remind me that I buy my rootlessness at the expense of important goods, and as I drive away again wondering why I can't help but leave but why I feel so sad, "Drive" comforts me. And so does the album.

Euler, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 14:48 (ten years ago) link

Euler, bravo. I'm always struck by how much this band has the capacity to mean something to people, perhaps particularly we Georgians but in general they never shied away from tackling big feelings, in their complexity, and we give that attention back, I think, in our attachment to these songs.

Out of Time is the Georgia-nostalgia record for me - but for no particular reason, and of course these things happen in large part through personal narratives - where and when we were when the albums hit us.

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 14:59 (ten years ago) link

euler, that was some awesome writing

imagine a super-serious, really noir mcgruff (stevie), Tuesday, 13 January 2009 15:21 (ten years ago) link

thank you!

Euler, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 16:29 (ten years ago) link

My favourite R.E.M. album after Murmur and nearly all of these stand up as great individual songs. Such a graceful record and it genuinely cheers me to know how popular it is. It's between 'Try Not To Breathe' and 'Man On The Moon' for me.

Gavin in Leeds, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 17:44 (ten years ago) link

Their best record.

Drive

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 18:18 (ten years ago) link

Find the River, even if it does sound like a pot pourri recipe

Dr X O'Skeleton, Tuesday, 13 January 2009 20:41 (ten years ago) link

this is a really good record. upon opening this, i thought that the first three songs were the best. and then i remembered the last three songs. and then i remembered how much i liked star me kitten. and sweetness follows.

scott miller makes a great argument for "try not to breathe" here (scroll down; it's second from the bottom) so i might vote for that. but looks like find the river might win this, and that is a breathtaking song, so i might vote that. but i really have no idea how i'm going to vote

when David becomes the new Goliath (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 20 January 2009 00:50 (ten years ago) link

I really like Nightswimming. Everybody Hurts killed into craven and abject submission by The Fall's Everything Hurtz.

But the only REM album I liked, not necessarily I suspect because it's better than any other - I wouldn't know - but right place, right time.

GamalielRatsey, Tuesday, 20 January 2009 01:15 (ten years ago) link

Drive strikes me as a terrible, awkward, and lyrically poor song. I find it utterly confounding that it was on the album, much less the lead single. But I dig "Nightswimming."

Pantheism F. Mohair (res), Tuesday, 20 January 2009 01:50 (ten years ago) link

Oh man, I love "Drive". The structure of it is very...mature. It sounds like the work of a band that was completely in control and knew exactly what it wanted. It's also a good example of what people mean when they talk about the influence of Bill Berry. The tone of restraint and space that he creates during the verses makes the song.

scourge of cords (Z S), Tuesday, 20 January 2009 01:56 (ten years ago) link

The first time I consciously heard "Find the river" I wondered where had I heard it before. I could never recall where, so I suppose truth is I had always been waiting for it, without knowing.

Wally West, Wednesday, 21 January 2009 15:52 (ten years ago) link

Oboe = RAWK

Ye Mad Puffin, Wednesday, 21 January 2009 16:44 (ten years ago) link

Sidenote re Wally's post: "Find the River" and Lisa Loeb's "Stay" both open with that same picked-through-then-strummed D chord, right?

Ye Mad Puffin, Wednesday, 21 January 2009 16:45 (ten years ago) link

voted star me kitten--cant take't back now...

seppuku toothbrush (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 21 January 2009 19:00 (ten years ago) link

The first time I consciously heard "Find the river" I wondered where had I heard it before. I could never recall where, so I suppose truth is I had always been waiting for it, without knowing.

As mentioned above, it sounds nearly identical to that Lisa Loeb song. Well, the first 5 seconds anyway.

Pantheism F. Mohair (res), Wednesday, 21 January 2009 19:31 (ten years ago) link

You say I only hear what I want to.

some dude, Wednesday, 21 January 2009 19:32 (ten years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 25 January 2009 00:01 (ten years ago) link

oh man this album is as emo as it gets for me

find the river

i like to fart and i am crazy (gbx), Sunday, 25 January 2009 00:05 (ten years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Monday, 26 January 2009 00:01 (ten years ago) link

Great turnout, and stunningly close results!

Still another poll, shortly to come...

Doctor Casino, Monday, 26 January 2009 00:02 (ten years ago) link

"Monty" got a raw deal, but o/w this looks great.

Euler, Monday, 26 January 2009 00:09 (ten years ago) link

Admit it Euler, you were hoping that Monty would do poorly just so you could say that! ;)

the maximum value that ZS obtains given its constraint is 8 (Z S), Monday, 26 January 2009 00:18 (ten years ago) link

Toyed with "Monty", this seems strange to me.

Euler, Monday, 26 January 2009 01:18 (ten years ago) link

Truly, the results prove that virtue isn't everything.

Doctor Casino, Monday, 26 January 2009 01:32 (ten years ago) link

Just let go.

Euler, Monday, 26 January 2009 01:51 (ten years ago) link

Hold...your...tongue.

Doctor Casino, Monday, 26 January 2009 02:03 (ten years ago) link

that shit is plain fucked up

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Monday, 26 January 2009 06:13 (ten years ago) link

c'mon, this is just vitriol, no solution spleen venting. do you feel better for having screamed?

the fap where all the dudes fawned over my chick (stevie), Monday, 26 January 2009 13:23 (ten years ago) link

Don't you?

Doctor Casino, Monday, 26 January 2009 13:43 (ten years ago) link

"Everybody Hurts" – 5:17 2

This makes me so unbelievably happy.

ilxor, Monday, 26 January 2009 18:38 (ten years ago) link

i don't mind "Drive" but major o_O

some dude, Monday, 26 January 2009 19:00 (ten years ago) link

why was there no "I would like to beat 'Everybody Hurts' with bats" option

Barack You Like A Husseincane (HI DERE), Monday, 26 January 2009 19:01 (ten years ago) link

y'all know that some future generation of music crits is gonna reclaim everybody hurts though

the gush of yesterday (omar little), Monday, 26 January 2009 19:03 (ten years ago) link

this is why I am glad I won't be around in the 2100s

Barack You Like A Husseincane (HI DERE), Monday, 26 January 2009 19:06 (ten years ago) link

maybe at night in the cemetery they'll pipe in 'everybody hurts' to the graves though? like to soothe the dead?

the gush of yesterday (omar little), Monday, 26 January 2009 19:08 (ten years ago) link

I don't hate "Everybody Hurts" but I've skipped it when listening to this album since, well, 1992. Same for "Ignoreland".

Euler, Monday, 26 January 2009 19:39 (ten years ago) link

four years pass...

God, though, you guys, "Man on the Moon" really is a fucking great song.

Doctor Casino, Monday, 21 October 2013 15:18 (six years ago) link

Something I don't understand about myself is why I have no time for "Man on the Moon," finding it kind of boringly chirpy, when I love and admire both "Stand" and "Shiny Happy People." Maybe it's because I think of Andy Kaufman as a really different kind of thing from R.E.M. and it feels somehow not true to what the band was doing to reach for this reference -- i.e. as you know I love Talking Heads beyond measure but if Talking Heads had done a song that was explicitly about Lily Tomlin would I have been into it? But no, I don't think there's a reason, I just think this song struck me at the wrong time and glanced off. If I remember right, MotM and "Try Not To Breathe" were the ones I liked when this first came out. Now I would rank "Sweetness Follows"

Guayaquil (eephus!), Monday, 21 October 2013 15:27 (six years ago) link

I sort of get what you mean about Kaufman, or more generally that first string of pop cultural references: the Game of Life, Mott the Hoople. Seems kind of outside their normal basket of mythology. It's basically a "Candle in the Wind" kind of deal, and for an "alternative" band, finding meaning in this semi-mainstream reference might seem odd, even if it probably went over the heads of most of the listeners. I know I had to look it up when I got into this album in '98/99.

Doctor Casino, Monday, 21 October 2013 15:32 (six years ago) link

would've voted 'man on the moon' most likely, though 'monty got a raw deal' got a raw deal here. in 92 would've voted 'ignoreland', so stupid. man what an album. casino did simpson make you aware how close weaver d's was (is) to going out of business?

balls, Tuesday, 22 October 2013 04:52 (six years ago) link

and for an "alternative" band, finding meaning in this semi-mainstream reference might seem odd

ha, i meant something more like the exact opposite, that the kaufman ref reads to me r.e.m. reaching for "artiness" in a way that didn't suit them

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 22 October 2013 05:01 (six years ago) link

More about atheism than artiness...

Lover (Eazy), Tuesday, 22 October 2013 05:05 (six years ago) link

Okay, I get you now re: Kaufman! I guess artiness seems within their remit to me... Man Ray kind of sky, etc.

I thought Weaver D's HAD gone out of business!

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 22 October 2013 11:12 (six years ago) link

if Talking Heads had done a song that was explicitly about Lily Tomlin

but they did write a song for "Bill."

the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 22 October 2013 11:46 (six years ago) link

one year passes...

Even though this album represents the point where R.E.M. went interstellar massive, I often forget just how great this album is. Particularly the second half of the album from 'Monty' onwards. Those string arrangements still sound gorgeous too, particularly on 'Sidewinder'. I think I'm even beginning to be able to listen to 'Everybody Hurts' again after years of being sick to death of it, too.

Welcome To (Turrican), Friday, 24 October 2014 03:16 (five years ago) link

I pulled this out after the New Adventures revive listen the other day, and agree as always: rich, moody, textured arrangements on a great set of songs, arguably the most consistent set of songs they ever wrote (save "Ignoreland" though I know opinions are divided).

Doctor Casino, Friday, 24 October 2014 03:28 (five years ago) link

Yeah, 'Ignoreland' has always divided opinion, I guess, although I've always enjoyed it. The thing that's sprung to mind on this go-round of the album is how much 'Star Me Kitten' has grown on me over the years. When I first heard the album back in the '90s it was always a track that I didn't find myself paying much attention to, but these days I look forward to it... there's something about the way the bass combines with those backing vocals that's total ear candy to me.

I wonder how many people who bought this album noticed the f-bombs in 'Ignoreland' and 'Star Me Kitten', too.

Welcome To (Turrican), Friday, 24 October 2014 03:38 (five years ago) link

This is the one REM album I really like.

the man with the black wigs (Eazy), Friday, 24 October 2014 05:12 (five years ago) link

I never had a problem with Ignoreland, but then I could never work out the words and never had a lyric sheet. In its defence, I like Stipe's flow as the second part of the verse builds (before the 'yeah yeah yeah yeah' part)

Shepard Toney Album (dog latin), Friday, 24 October 2014 10:05 (five years ago) link

it's horrible because it breaks the flow of the album. on its own it's still horrible. Stipe's flow on it is a descendent of the talky flow on "Little America" and "It's the End of the World", and I suppose the talky bit on "Orange Crush", like he was into rap and thought "I can do...something like that". so on "Ignoreland" he takes that talky flow but barks like on "Orange Crush", and then it's into the hideous chorus, boomed out perkily, like an ad. "Ironic", no? what's worse is that that flow becomes the model for New Adventures, like on "Departure", "How the West Was Won", "E-Bow" kinda. well I can see why "Ignoreland" would split opinions because people here actually like those songs on Hifi, but they're the nadir of REM to me; I'd rather listen to "Leaving New York".

droit au butt (Euler), Friday, 24 October 2014 10:25 (five years ago) link

Stipe's increasing talky delivery from mid 90s onward I find really grating.

Seems to coincide IMO with becoming a much less interesting, over-'obvious' frontman.

Master of Treacle, Friday, 24 October 2014 12:30 (five years ago) link

Ahhhhh, I dunno, I love "Departure" and the fast-talkin' parts on "Ignoreland" are the only really interesting part of that song. Different strokes.

Doctor Casino, Friday, 24 October 2014 14:51 (five years ago) link

I'll agree that they're the most interesting part of that song, but that's just because the chorus is so rank.

but really my abiding hatred for that song is b/c it's like walking into a moss-covered cemetery in the autumn as dusk sets, and ripping a giant stinky fart.

droit au butt (Euler), Friday, 24 October 2014 14:58 (five years ago) link

I love Stipe's talky delivery. It's one of the many things that contributes to New Adventures In Hi-Fi being the best R.E.M. album.

In its defence, I like Stipe's flow as the second part of the verse builds (before the 'yeah yeah yeah yeah' part)

― Shepard Toney Album (dog latin), Friday, October 24, 2014 10:05 AM (6 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

This part rules!

Welcome To (Turrican), Friday, 24 October 2014 16:27 (five years ago) link

two years pass...

While there's quite a few tracks on this record that were overplayed to death at the time and many years after until R.E.M. split, I feel I've reached the point where there's been enough distance from all of that that I can now listen to this album front-to-back and have it feel like a fresher experience than it's felt for a number of years. At one point, I was so sick of hearing 'Everybody Hurts' and 'Man On The Moon' that I never thought I'd really be able to enjoy either to the extent that I once did, but now I'm beginning to hear the simplicity and directness that I once loved about that former, and the layered vocal lines and catchy chorus that I once loved about the latter. I know Out of Time bizarrely has a lot of fans on here, but it was undoubtedly a dry run for this. A magnificent album. The only time they ever made an album better than this afterwards was with New Adventures in Hi-Fi, otherwise known to me as the best album R.E.M. ever made.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Monday, 5 June 2017 18:42 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

why are you shivering?

reggie (qualmsley), Tuesday, 5 November 2019 21:34 (two weeks ago) link


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