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Fables of the Reconstruction

Alternative Rock album by R.E.M.

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Murky: and that's a compliment

  • Aug 26, 1999
Having stood the test of time, this album deserves a resurrection. Later fans may not have heard this when it came out, and little of it has remained in many set-lists and radio playlists, it seems. The dense, swampy, humid, "inbred" feel of the album comes through--as the lp's strength and drawback, it seems.

The recording difficulties the band underwent must have been unfortunate, as Joe Boyd to me seems the ideal producer (if you can't have Mitch Easter! Surely better than Don Gehman of JCougarM infamy, or Scott Litt's air-guitar hit-making efforts.) The mystery of REM which may annoy casual fans comes through like the fog, and it's not an album to start with for REM. But, only after every other album, would this one be fully appreciated and grasped. It's a slow courtship.

"Good Advices," by the way, is charmingly played on the REM cover-tribute cd "Surprise Your Pig," by an Italian band--this made me appreciate the original much more. The also rather-obscure "Green Grow the Rushes," "Auctioneer," "Maps and Legends" and especially "Life and How to Live It" all hold up well in retrospect, and even some of the ornery, sluggish songs seem suited to the mood of this record: longing, wistful, lonely, brooding.

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More Fables of the Reconstruction reviews
review by . September 16, 2006
'Reconstruction of the Fables' showcases the uncompromising dedication R.E.M. has to reinvent their sound wheel on every outing. Every album is consistently great quality with the moxy even the Beatles lacked. (For them superstardom garnered nearly limitless resources at their disposal.) '...Fables' is a brilliant album that is only slightly tarnished by a production that reminds one of the sixties. The folk-rock sensibility is certainly updated, however, and the concept presented is consistent …
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John L. Murphy ()
Ranked #11
Medievalist turned humanities professor; unrepentant but not unskeptical Fenian; overconfident accumulator of books & music; overcurious seeker of trivia, quadrivia, esoterica.      … more
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R.E.M.'s third full-length recording,Fables of the Reconstructiondelivers the purest distillation of the band's early sound. With the exception of the horn-laden, radio-friendly "Can't Get There from Here," the songs form a connected soundscape. Nearly transparent production highlights the glittering guitar arpeggios, active bass, and the disciplined, patterned drum lines, with organ and spare string arrangements adding texture to several pieces. And then there are the vocals: dense harmonies of voices calling out to each other, a rich humming and howling around Michael Stipe's central mumble. A careful listener can discern most of the lyrics, though what exactly they signify remains unclear. The album is best contemplated in its entirety, and the songs reward careful, repeated listening. This is a seminal alternative album, its material evocative, its ultimate meanings elusive. If your CD collection has room for only a few R.E.M. albums,Fablesshould be one of them.--Albert Massa
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Label: Capitol
Artist: R.E.M.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Release Date: January 27, 1998
First to Review
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