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Shawn McNulty
Acrylic and Pumice on Canvas

Automatic is an original abstract painting on canvas by visual artist Shawn McNulty. This painting is is 1.5″ deep, gallery wrapped with painted edges, and ready to hang with wire on the back.

Fun Fact: The title comes from the 1992 album from REM called Automatic for the People. There were more REM inspired titles of similar paintings at the same time. Check out the entire REM series. This painting was part of my Striations exhibition at Rosalux Gallery.

R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People”: A Poignant Masterpiece

Released in 1992, “Automatic for the People” stands as a pinnacle in R.E.M.’s illustrious career, showcasing the band’s sonic evolution and lyrical depth. This album, with its introspective themes and musical maturity, transcends the boundaries of alternative rock and solidifies R.E.M.’s place as one of the most influential bands of their era. “Automatic for the People” is a poignant masterpiece that explores the complexities of life, mortality, and human connection.

Mature Sonic Palette:

“Automatic for the People” marked a departure from the jangly guitars and upbeat rhythms of R.E.M.’s earlier works. The album embraces a more mature and subdued sonic palette, incorporating lush string arrangements and acoustic textures. The result is a musical landscape that is both intimate and expansive, allowing the emotional weight of the lyrics to take center stage.

Lyrically Profound:

Michael Stipe’s lyrical prowess reaches new heights on this album, as he grapples with themes of loss, mortality, and societal challenges. The opening track, “Drive,” sets the tone with Stipe’s haunting vocals delivering cryptic yet evocative lines like “Hey, kids, where are you? / Nobody tells you what to do, baby.” The introspective journey continues with tracks like “Try Not to Breathe” and “Nightswimming,” where Stipe’s poignant lyrics are woven into the fabric of the music, creating a tapestry of emotion.

Iconic Singles:

“Automatic for the People” features some of R.E.M.’s most iconic and enduring singles. “Man on the Moon,” a tribute to comedian Andy Kaufman, captures the essence of the enigmatic performer. The catchy and uplifting “Everybody Hurts” became an anthem of solace, offering a message of hope and empathy. Both songs showcase R.E.M.’s ability to craft accessible yet deeply meaningful music that resonates with a broad audience.

Stunning Arrangements:

The album’s stunning arrangements, overseen by producer Scott Litt, elevate R.E.M.’s sound to new heights. The incorporation of orchestral elements, courtesy of John Paul Jones and Led Zeppelin’s string arranger Nick Davis, adds a layer of sophistication to the music. The strings on “Drive” and “Nightswimming” enhance the emotional impact, creating moments of beauty and melancholy.

Dark Undercurrents:

While “Automatic for the People” is undeniably beautiful, it carries a subtle darkness beneath its surface. Songs like “Monty Got a Raw Deal” and “Ignoreland” delve into political and societal issues, reflecting a sense of disillusionment. The album’s ability to balance moments of introspection with societal commentary adds depth and complexity to its narrative.

Conceptual Unity:

The album exhibits a strong sense of conceptual unity, with each track contributing to the overarching themes of mortality and the human experience. The seamless flow from one song to the next creates a cohesive listening experience, inviting the audience to immerse themselves in the emotional journey that unfolds.

Enduring Impact:

“Automatic for the People” was met with critical acclaim upon its release and has since solidified its status as one of the greatest albums of the ’90s. Its enduring impact is evident in its continued presence in discussions of seminal works in alternative rock. The album’s influence can be heard in the works of subsequent artists who have drawn inspiration from its sonic and thematic depth.


“Automatic for the People” is more than an album; it’s a testament to R.E.M.’s artistic evolution and their ability to craft music that transcends genres and generations. The maturity, introspection, and profound lyricism displayed on this album make it a timeless masterpiece. Each track is a poignant exploration of the human condition, offering solace, contemplation, and a profound connection with the listener. As “Automatic for the People” continues to age gracefully, its impact remains indelible, a testament to the enduring power of R.E.M.’s artistry.


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