After OKX, our 10-year cover tribute to the Radiohead classic OK Computer, we soon began narrowing the list of prospects for our next celebratory project: sifting, sorting, debating, etc. But when we realized we were approaching a decade and a half since the release of R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People (originally released 10/5/92) -- surprised by that period of time as we had been by discovering it had been a full decade since OK Computer -- we knew we had our next project chosen.
It's a similar sort of awe and respect we have for Automatic, an album that stood out of step from the angsty grunge and brainy indie rock of that era; in that sense, it's also an album out of time, and one that still affects us all here at Stereogum. Now 15 years on, and with R.E.M. showing signs of increased activity, releasing a CD/DVD set R.E.M. Live on 10/16 and working furiously and furtively on a new album expected next year, it's an ideal moment to reflect upon and celebrate this personal, critical, and commercial favorite.
There never was a question of whom we wanted to contextualize Drive XV or who was most qualified: In his essay "Sweetness Followed: 15 Years After Automatic," Fluxblog founder and R.E.M. savant (Pop Songs 07, anyone?) Matthew Perpetua employs his deep Automatic insight to frame the record thematically and historically, to discuss its impact on the mostly younger generation of artists on Drive XV, and, ultimately, to analyze how these upstarts have consumed, digested, and reinterpreted the LP.
We embarked upon Drive XV months before we learned R.E.M. would be releasing a live album (their first) the same month. The timing was fortuitous, however; it meant the band was in requisite promotional mode. Thus Stereogum was granted time to speak with Mike Mills, whose commentary on each Automatic track you'll see as you browse the mini-site. (We also talked other passions with Mr. Mills -- the full Q&A will appear on Stereogum later this month.)
As for Automatic, maybe nothing speaks to the influence this record's had on the current crop of indie rockers more directly than the amazing number of high-caliber artists who expressed interest in contributing to the compilation. So although Drive XV launches with single covers of each Automatic song, we will add exclusive versions from even more artists in the coming weeks. Each track's page has a dedicated comment section; we're sure you'll make good use of that.
Lots of hard work went into bringing Drive XV together, so we'd like to give thanks to album cover illustrators Heads Of State, to Warner Brothers and REM HQ's David Bell and Kevin O'Neil, to Matthew Perpetua, to master masterer Paul Geissinger, and of course to R.E.M. and all the bands who contributed. We hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
(Click here to read our essay Sweetness Followed: 15 Years After Automatic.)
Download DriveXV as a .zip file.