Auctioneer (Another Engine)

March 30, 2007

“Auctioneer (Another Engine)” is the second of two songs on Fables of the Reconstruction with a clear railroad theme, and though its words tie into the general lyrical themes of the album, I get the sense that Michael Stipe was simply reinforcing an impression that the music would have suggested either way. Maybe I’ve spent entirely too much time on and around trains in my lifetime, but I’m fairly certain that I’d associate the sound of this with dilapidated tracks and zooming freights regardless of what he was singing.

Among early R.E.M. compositions, “Auctioneer” is the most indebted to the claustrophobic, uptight sound of British post-punk, though that style is filtered through the rather specific sensibility of Peter Buck. Though Bill Berry’s driving percussion is crucial to the character of the piece, the song’s most memorable features come courtesy of Buck — the creepy arpeggiated tangle of notes on the chorus, and the fiery lead figure that implies breakneck speed without actually being all that fast.

10 Responses to “Auctioneer (Another Engine)”

  1. dan Says:

    during one of the few times i smoked pot, i listened to this song and had the distinct impression that the drums were in some way slightly too fast, like they were falling down the stairs (or, i guess an out of control train would be a better analogy)and couldn’t be stopped. following this experience i began to really like the song.

  2. Eclipse Says:

    One of the things I really like about this song is how it comes to a sudden halt after all that driving force. It somehow reinforces the implication of breakneck speed that you mnentioned. Classic stuff.

  3. Mary Alice Says:

    yeah I always liked this song…I mean making a song sound like a train doesn’t sound like the most creative idea but they really do make it sound completely fresh. A lot of talent, a lot of good spirit, and just the right amount of naievete to actually pull it off.

  4. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Espeically in REM’s early 80’s period I never thought that they really “rocked” convincingly. This song has never been one of my favorites for that reason. (Really, “Begin The Begin” is the first rock song I bought into as a rock song). Its not that this song is terrible, because its not. I especially like how the flow of the lyrics sort of does invoke the feel of an auctioneer. However, at best this song is pleasnt filler that fits the mood of an album. And in my mind it is one of the few REM songs you can say that about.


  5. […] me a joyful noise…” lead-up to the chorus is a thrill every time, and “the auctioneer is such a creep” line is a fun nod to longtime […]

  6. mscot Says:

    BWD, what about Radio Free Europe?

  7. transformerdog Says:

    this song is really freaky, trippy , like in a psychedelic way . never thought I’d say that about an REM song. almost scary . never thougt I’d say that about an REM song . feels like you are on a train or a roller coaster and it has lost it’s brakes, approaching the precipice. intense. never thought I’d say that about an REM song either.

  8. transformerdog Says:

    an out of control carousel with a mad clown at the controls, chemically imbalanced

  9. transformerdog Says:

    Joe Boyd -the producer–had worked with Pink Floyd when Syd Barret was with them, ok. that explains that, eh?

  10. profligateprofiterole Says:

    chuggin chuggin….come on now , chuggin…..made it to ten……..feels good…….transformed into a new man. a lilt of levity and swooned into a quaver.


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