For their third album, R.E.M. made a conscious effort to break from the traditions Murmur and Reckoning established, electing to record in England with legendary folk-rock producer Joe Boyd. For a variety of reasons, the sessions were difficult, and that tension is apparent throughout Fables of the Reconstruction. A dark, moody rumination on American folk -- not only the music, but its myths -- Fables is creepy, rustic psychedelic folk, filled with eerie sonic textures. Some light breaks through occasionally, such as the ridiculous collegiate blue-eyed soul of "Can't Get There From Here," but the group's trademark ringing guitars and cryptic lyrics have grown sinister, giving even sing-alongs like "Driver 8" an ominous edge. Fables is more inconsistent than its two predecessors, but the group does demonstrate considerable musical growth, particularly in how perfectly it evokes the strange rural legends of the South. And many of the songs on the record -- including "Feeling Gravitys Pull," "Maps and Legends," "Green Grow the Rushes," "Auctioneer (Another Engine)," and the previously mentioned pair -- rank among the group's best.
Fables of the Reconstruction Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine