ALBUM: AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE
LABEL: WARNER BROS.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The once alternative rock band retreats from stardom with a downbeat, ruminative album.
It's lonely at the top, and really depressing too. At least that's the inescapable impression conveyed by Automatic for the People, R.E.M.'s follow- up to its 1991 critical and commercial smash, Out of Time. The record gets off to a somber start with Drive, a dirgelike number featuring lyricist and lead singer Michael Stipe, and continues its downward spiral with a string of songs that meander into a morass of hopelessness, anger and loss.