Maybe the first band I ever got obsessed with was R.E.M., and the peak years of my obsession were like 1991 to 1993—i.e., the Out of Time and Automatic for the People era. I listened to these records hundreds of times, just hundreds. And then around 1999 I pretty much never listened to them again.
Tastes change. I don’t know that I need to say anything more about it. And yet here I am about to: these records had too many soft textures for me to get excited about listening to them. They weren’t necessarily too slow and still—I listen to Smog once every other week or so, another onetime obsession. They were very 90’s.
And they both had all these missteps. “Radio Song”‘s cornyness. “Man on the Moon”‘s pollyannaism. I got “Ignoreland” of all things stuck in my had a few weeks back and when I listened to it I just got embarrassed. “I’m just profoundly frustrated by all this so fuck you, man.” And that “yeah yeah yeah” in the background of the chorus? Awful.
I felt I had to do something.
Some years back, Topher Grace got famous again for taking the Star Wars prequels and cutting them into one movie he’d screen at parties. Everyone agreed it was a finer film than any in the trilogy.
Could I make a better R.E.M. record out of these two subpar R.E.M. records? Yes. I loved the band enough to do this for them.
I laid some ground rules:
- I couldn’t make a record longer than Automatic (48 mins) or shorter than Out of Time (45 mins).
- I had to mix the tracks among each other, and not block sort them by album.
- I couldn’t follow any song with the song that follows it on the original.
- I had to make a record I wouldn’t want to skip any song of, but play all the way through.
- I had to call the whole thing Outtamatic.
I wanted a rule that no track could appear at the same position it appeared in either original, but that didn’t work out; “Me in Honey” is my favorite album closer in all of R.E.M.’s catalog. Maybe one of my favorite album closers of all time. I wasn’t about to close Outtamatic with anything else.
Here’s the tracklist. If you’re on YouTube you can stream it here.
2. Monty Got a Raw Deal
5. Sweetness Follows
6. Shiny Happy People
7. New Orleans Instrumental No. 1
9. Half A World Away
10. Country Feedback
11. Star Me Kitten
12. Me in Honey
As you can see I wasn’t very kind to Mike Mills, and as a big huge B-52’s fan I’ve left all of Kate Pierson’s songs intact. I took it as a challenge to include “Shiny Happy People”, which if you ask me holds up better than “Losing My Religion” or “Everybody Hurts” in terms of overplayed R.E.M. songs.
Anyway it’s a better record, so rejigger your listening mechanisms and enjoy it when it comes up in the queue—if anyone’s queueing whole records in 2018.