That Sinking Feeling

PERFORMER: R.E.M.

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.

The...

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