R.E.M. have been around since 1981 and have released a total of 13 albums. This is R.E.M’s third release. I think that Fables of Reconstruction is a strong album, it’s a solid R.E.M. release. This is R.E.M.s darkest and most folk influenced album. Being released after there jangle pop album “Reckoning”, Fables of Reconstruction goes down a more dark, folk road. This album is different from almost all R.E.M. albums, it is moodier and darker. R.E.M. was a big part of the underground rock scene in the 80's, and this album was one of the reasons what made it happen. This is not a pop album, it is an alt/folk/rock album. If you enjoy pop, or later R.E.M. music than this will be a risky purchase.
Musically this is R.E.M.s most depressing album. The music is melancholy, dark, moody, and depressing. Some of these songs are eerie, and even haunting. If you dislike folk music than this probably won’t be a very wise purchase. “Kohoutek” is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. It is a slow, dark, guitar influenced tune that is depressing and moody. The song is not only eerie, but it drags you into a world of darkness. “Old Man Kensey” is another dark, gloomy folk song that has a slow guitar riff and downbeat bass line. These songs are the most dark and moody songs R.E.M. has ever produced. Honestly, compared to all other R.E.M. albums this impresses me the most because it is dark and dreary yet it still keeps its replay value. “Driver 8" and “Maps & Legends” are two more upbeat songs, they still have the folk influence but turn out to be more fun and uplifting. This balances out the album and doesn’t let it fall under the “I only like this album when I’m depressed.” type thing. I admit, this album works best when you need to think about things, but it is also effective when you just need some rock music to listen to. “Can’t Get There From Here” reminds me of something from “Reckoning”, it is a more upbeat song built from guitar riffs and nice melodies. However as you get closer to the end of the album the album gradually gets more depressing and dreary. The closer “Wendell Gee” consists of a light guitar strum, and some soft vocals. The song is dark, eerie and even shows hints of psychedelia.
Now we know this is an alt/folk album so how does it compare to other folk albums" I have no back round on folk music, so I am not one to know. Even though I don’t know much about folk music I know a good, solid album when I hear one. “Fables of Reconstruction” is a great album if you want some dark, folk tunes and some strong vocals. Stripes vocal delivery is quite simple. He has an odd voice, he mumbles and wails the lyrics through the microphone. He can be hard to understand in some songs, but I think after a few listens you will get used to his vocals. Through the eerie textures of the music Stripes voice fits in quite well. This album is like walking past an old rusty train. The train is dark, torn down and looks like it has been through a lot. This album is depressing. If you want some upbeat R.E.M. tunes then you should check out “Out of Time” or “Green.” There are no upbeat pop tunes to be found.
R.E.M. don’t use a lot of instruments on this album. The music consists of an acoustic guitar, a bass and some drums. The guitar usually plays soft riffs and melodies, while the bass is usually a slow, haunting pace. The drums play simple beats and don’t do too much. Most noticeably would be the guitar just because you can hear the riffs ringing in your ear on all of these songs. The guitars melodies are dark and gloomy, this fits brilliantly with Stripes whiney vocals. The bass doesn’t do too much, it just ties in the music from being dull. The drums are just your basic drum beats, nothing too difficult yet nothing gimmicky. The musicianship is decent, you can tell these guys are doing there best and there are no filler tracks. Instrumentally this album is good, there is nothing amazing yet nothing bad.
When I listen to this album it doesn’t immediately make me depressed. Sure tracks like “Wendell Gee” and “Kohoutek” are meant to be depressing and they are, but as a whole this album doesn’t bring me down. This album is still effective weather you like depressing music, or if you’re a fan of folk. I admit, I prefer R.E.M. when they create simple pop-rock tunes but I really enjoy this album because R.E.M. tried something completely different and it worked. Once again, “Fables of Reconstruction” works best if you enjoy dreary folk music. The eerie psychadelic sound of “Good Advices” to the upbeat riffs of “Driver 8", this album does show range. Maybe not as much range as other albums, but “Fables of Reconstruciont” avoids being a dull, boring album.
Overall I think this is a great album. Dark dreary folk tunes, gloomy vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and even some catchy tunes. There isn’t a weak song on the album, and there are a few standout tracks. There are no well known songs on “Fables of Reconstruction” but that doesn’t matter because all of these songs stand well on there own. I would recommend this to folk/rock fans instead of fans of pop music. Keep in mind that this album is quite eerie and depressing, so don’t purchase this if you can’t take some dreary tunes. There really isn’t anything upbeat about this album, the songs are simple folk tunes and they are equally effective as all other R.E.M. songs. As far as ranking of R.E.M. albums I would say that this falls in the middle for me. While this album isn’t amazing it isn’t awful, it is a good solid album. Please don’t ride this album off because there are no hit singles, if you give it a few listens then you might fall in love with it.
Overall Rating : 3.5/5
Album Art : http://img.epinions.com/images/opti/d9/fe/136002-music-resized200.JPG
Dark, dreary, gloomy tunes work out very well
Standout tracks make this album a keeper
Can be too depressing
Too much folk influence
Recommended Tracks :
“Maps & Legends”