Out of Time and Automatic for the People were the pinnacle of REM’s popularity and were recorded in relatively quick succession, with multiple AFTP songs originating from the OOT sessions.
In hindsight, some have suggested that Out of Time is a bit uneven, as are parts of Automatic from the People.
Imagine a parallel universe in which they had split up the songs into a poppier album and a darker album:
Out of Time (pop):
Near Wild Heaven
Shiny Happy People
Me in Honey
Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
Man on the Moon
Mike’s Pop Song
Automatic for the People (darker):
Try Not to Breathe
Monty Got a Raw Deal
Star Me Kitten
Find the River
Losing My Religion
Half A World Away
What if… Something to ponder anyhow
I always enjoyed how each of those albums (and Green, and to an extent Around the Sun and Accelerate) had that back and forth of dark slower/rock track and bright/upbeat pop song.
I was a bit surprised that over the years there was never a compilation album that had only the slower more serious songs or only the upbeat bright pop songs.
an interesting idea but i can’t bring myself to think of AFTP without the bittersweet and big emotions Man on the Moon provides as a gateway to the end of the LP. It’s like the catharsis for getting through Everybody Hurts & Try Not To Breathe.
The narrative of placing Losing My Religion (their big radio song) right after Radio Song feels like one the strongest choices of OOT, too. So i guess in summary the emotional breadth of both records makes them both stronger.
In terms of AFTP, I (like others here) think that the different shades of emotion weave together perfectly as it is; the more funereal aspects offset by the goofy jolt of Sidewinder, the political rage of Ignoreland and the communal sing along of Man On The Moon. Somehow it just stitches together with the right balance to create a continuous vibe and journey.
Out of Time, on the other hand, would definitely benefit from some reconfiguration. Great individual songs, but perhaps the worst sequencing of their entire discography. As a journey, Out of Time just makes no sense.
So an interesting idea but I’d sooner apply it to Out of Time alone - perhaps using the Green era abandoned concept of an acoustic side and an electric side, or a “downbeat side” and an “upbeat side” perhaps