“Our version of rock music”: The R.E.M album Michael Stipe described as louder and more fun than the rest

Meta Description: Explore the creative differences between R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People” and “Monster.” Discover how these albums showcase the band’s evolving sound and Michael Stipe’s changing attitude towards touring.

The markers of success that influenced the making of R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People” and “Monster” are among the most fascinating observations in music history. Michael Stipe once described “Automatic for the People” as “very mid-tempo, pretty fucking weird,” noting its acoustic, organ-based sound with fewer drums. This description not only highlights the album’s introspective nature but also sets the stage for the extroverted energy of “Monster.” These albums represent a pivotal moment in R.E.M.’s discography during the 1990s.

One of the main reasons why “Monster” became the more overtly blazing sister to 1992’s “Automatic for the People” was a significant change in Michael Stipe’s attitude towards touring. While working on “Automatic,” Stipe immersed himself in the glory of singing to a crowd, often spotlighting his voice alone. In a Rolling Stone interview, he explained that a subsequent tour would likely be simpler, with fewer lights and a more stripped-down performance. Recognizing the power of his own “pipes,” he enjoyed performances that allowed the audience to appreciate his singing and the “good songs” they had to offer.

However, the approach leading up to the creation of “Monster” was different. With plans to embark on another tour, the focus was to craft songs that were slightly abrasive but energetic and endearing to the audience. This was a far cry from the more considered and introspective tunes of “Automatic for the People.”

Discussing this approach during an interview with Radio X after the 25th-anniversary issue, Stipe explained the distinctive approach they took with “Monster,” stating: “We wanted to write songs that would be loud and fun to play and would stand in contrast to the more sombre songs that were on ‘Automatic for the People’ and to some extent ‘Out Of Time.’” Expanding on the differences, he added: “We wanted to have something counterpoint to that, so that was the actual sound of the record and what we were looking for. And we got a lot of fun noise on there, Peter [Buck] was rediscovering the electric guitar, so that was fun for him to write these super loud songs.”

It doesn’t require a keen ear to spot the differences between other albums and “Monster.” Most of the songs on “Monster” seem delicately crafted to suit a large modern audience, with many melodies directed by guitar alone, thanks to Buck’s heavy focus on the electric guitar.

“It was our version of rock music,” Stipe told The Guardian, describing the appeal of “Monster.” “U2 had come out with ‘Achtung Baby,’ where they had allowed themselves to become theatrical; there was an element of that,” he continued. As a result, “Monster” became a staple in R.E.M.’s discography and an enduring collection, one which allowed them to answer the question: “Who are we in all this?”

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