You smile like a cartoon, tooth for tooth
You said that irony was the “shackles of youth”
If you’re someone who likes getting the ending up front, I’ll spare you the details: the hero of the story is Bill Berry. I had gotten a copy of R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People” the week of its release- the cassette was yellow- and immediately fell in love with the record. While it would be years before I could appreciate the clever writing of singer Michael Stipe, the album served as a welcome departure from what I understood as music in the early 1990s.
While Axl Rose and Metallica were producing work of equal measure, R.E.M. was my first exposure to the idea that things didn’t always need to rock- R.E.M. wasn’t afraid to give a moment space and allow a song to breath- this gave “Drive” room to brood ominously and “Everybody Hurts” time to emotionally settle. “Nightswimming” is still one of my favorite songs and always manages to make me cry.
As much as I loved the record, at twelve years old, I had this awful hunch that I was being duped. I had thought of myself as a kind of emerging rock critic, a junior Robert Christgau, compiling my own Consumers Guide to Rock; I knew what rocked and what sucked.
But there was something fishy about 1992- everything rocked.