Sound — 9
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 it's 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 it's 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.
Lyrics — 9
R.E.M. draws upon the more haunting aspects of the South for inspiration and subject matter. Though they never deal with history head-on, the title of their album betrays an interest in history or, more exactly, the effect of a historical event in shaping the peculiar culture of their region. Fables is not a concept album, but there is a contextual frame here, more so than on R.E.M.'s other records. Perhaps making this album in another country gave them the distance to see their own more clearly. Micheal Stipe voice has changed slighty since the first two albums it has become more clearer and more powerful.
Overall Impression — 8
Can't Get There from Here" is perhaps the boldest, most full-blooded song this band has recorded. With it's scratch-funk guitar, bobbing bass line, spare yet potent drumming and Stipe's enthralling vocal. "Green Grow The Rushes," "Driver 8" and "Maps And Lgends" are also standout tracks on the album. This continues R.E.M.'s prolific stretch of '80s albums and if it was lost/stolen I would definitely buy a new one. The is again another great album by the best band of the '80s.