Artist – Album: R.E.M – Fables of the Reconstruction
Released: 10th June 1985
Sounds Like: They R.E.xceptional
Back when Michael Stipe had hair (and a lot of it), R.E.M were the world’s premier underground band. Despite the fact that their debut album was critically acclaimed and hailed by Rolling Stone as the album of 1983 (ahead of Thriller amongst other pivotal recordings), the band retained only a cult following far removed from their current stadium rock elite status. For all that the murky enigma that was Murmur captivated, and the poppier Reckoning impressed, Fables of the Reconstruction is perhaps the most representative of the band during those halcyon days.
The band have always embraced their Americana roots, from songs such as ‘So. Central Rain’ to ‘Cuyahoga’, and here they make something of a concept album about the US. For the most part the music is a brooding and hypnotic as they got during their early period, but piercing the swampy gloom are a few jangly gems. ‘Green Grow the Rushes’ floats along a summer breeze with its airy melodies and joyous guitars, whilst ‘Can’t Get There From Here’ is a loopy indie rocker, like an earlier, lower production ’Orange Crush’. Elsewhere, from the fantastic if melancholic ‘Driver 8’ to the spiky ‘Auctioneer (Another Engine)’ things are introspective.
Unfortunately, the album’s prominent feature is its unevenness. Half a dozen songs here - those mentioned and ‘Good Advices’, ‘Wendell Gee’ and ‘Maps and Legends’ – are of the highest order. But the other half is forgettable, and together they lead to an ultimately unsatisfying listen. I wouldn’t normally say this, but I would recommend you pick up 1991’s Best of R.E.M, which concentrates on just the first five albums and captures the band at their offbeat peak.
Albumaday... rating: 7/10
1. Feeling Gravitys Pull – 4:51
2. Maps and Legends – 3:10
3. Driver 8 – 3:23
4. Life and How to Live It – 4:06
5. Old Man Kensey – 4:08
6. Can’t Get There from Here – 3:39
7. Green Grow the Rushes – 3:46
8. Kohoutek – 3:18
9. Auctioneer (Another Engine) – 2:44
10. Good Advices – 3:30
11. Wendell Gee – 3:01
Listen to ‘Good Advices’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI1e1YoHXO0