Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Fables of the reconstruction of the fables...

I usually don't opine about albums on here - I save my musical evaluations for MusicTAP and Popdose, but this is a highly personal and emotional thing for me.  R.E.M.'s Fables Of The Reconstruction was released 35 years ago on this day and has, at this point, had the most lasting impact on me in the context of their albums (which pretty much peaked with this classic/masterpiece).

In the years following Fables' release, I felt a slow trajectory downward in both their music and connection to me.  It isn't coincidental, as they seemed to grow bigger in popularity, chart success, etc.  The disconnect for me was the quality of the songs, and subsequently, their albums as a whole offering.  Each release from Lifes Rich Pageant onward just didn't live with me as the first three albums (and the Chronic Town E.P., which started the whole thing off).

I used to say without hesitation that Murmur was my favorite, since it was the first full-length album and it captured a very specific moment in time for me and my life as it was, when I first heard it.  But, I've had to step back and take as objective a view as possible.  Fables Of The Reconstruction has served me, over the following decades, as a musical travelogue, a source of comfort and introspection, a musical palette and a constant wonder.  I can listen to the album in its entirety; it reads like a novel and individual songs serve as a touchstone for certain memories and people that I (still) hold near and dear.  In this time of a pandemic, I've only listened to two albums, albeit in staggered fashion (while riding the ferry into Manhattan, actually).  One album was a key component of my earliest childhood (The Monkees' Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.) and the other is Fables... 

The elegiac, haunting (and somewhat ponderous) beauty of "Kohoutek" is one of my most-loved R.E.M. songs; it's certainly my centerpiece to this album.  Explosive, emotional and melodically-rich, it's also incredibly cinematic - as are most of the tracks on Fables...; I have seen people from my life in the lyrics - as I've seen myself.  And it's a testament to the power of the images conjured up along with the music that carries the story along, working in perfect balance.

This is one of those rare albums that gets better over time; it doesn't sound dated; the stories are filled with characters and places - it can be taken to heart and mind.  And it can be listened to in chapters - each song is a tale of its own merit.  The music is darker, more lush and thought out than the prior R.E.M. albums.  And it's far and away the best thing they ever did.


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