Manual For The People

At Stylus, J. Edward Keyes does an interesting Playing God With REM’s Up. Unfortunately, I sold this album in my last CD purge and am therefore unable to experiment with his recommendations, but the article still makes for good reading and I love how it describes my favourite song on that album, At My Most Beautiful (which it repositions from track 5 to second last):

Coming near the end of the record, it sounds like salvation, the final beautiful destination we’ve been struggling towards for the last nine songs. It felt chintzy at the center of the record, a piece of rock candy on a plastic ring, but as a conclusion it’s a solid diamond, three-and-a-half straight minutes of melody as a reward for struggling around the record’s hundreds of tight corners. Stipe sang the word ‘smile’ and Mills went ‘doot-doot-doot’ and so everybody within throwing distance hollered ‘Beach Boys!’, and God only knows how many reviewers followed suit. It’s just as much Gary Wilson as Brian, though, a Botticelli done up in Day-Glo Paint. More, though: it captures that beautiful, holy, serene stillness that comes when you watch the person you love sleep. ‘I count your eyelashes, secretly’ – who does that? A better question: Who doesn’t?


  1. I love ‘At My Most Beautiful’ too. The other REM song that always gets me is ‘Nightswimming’.

  2. Yes, Nightswimming’s pretty special all right. But if I started listing the songs on Automatic For The People that I liked…there’d be twelve.

    Anyone like Tongue?

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