Automatic For The People (1992)
Less a response to grunge than a reaction to their own looming middle age, Automatic For The People was a slow waltz amid an American mainstream full of mosh pits, a collection of stripped-back, melancholy songs that reflected on youth, memory and mortality. Hypnotic opener Drive drifts through gentle picking and an acoustic shuffle before splintering the gloom with a Marshall-cranked solo, while elsewhere the chiming, picked strings of mandolin and bouzouki are backlit by layers of acoustic guitar on Try Not To Breathe and Monty Got A Raw Deal respectively. The ‘mutated Stax’ of Everybody Hurts may have lost a little edge to over-exposure, but Man On The Moon remains an outstanding slice of pop songwriting, its countrified twang courtesy of Peter Buck’s Telecaster slide.
Recommended track: Man On The Moon