Fables of the Reconstruction

Fables of the Reconstruction
Fables of the Reconstruction
Studio album by R.E.M.
Released June 10, 1985 (1985-06-10)
Recorded February–March 1985 at Livingston Studios, London, United Kingdom
Genre Alternative rock
Length 39:44
Language English
Label I.R.S.
Producer Joe Boyd
R.E.M. chronology
Fables of the Reconstruction
Lifes Rich Pageant
Singles from Fables of the Reconstruction
  1. "Cant Get There from Here"
    Released: June 1985 (1985-06)
  2. "Driver 8"
    Released: September 1985 (1985-09)
  3. "Wendell Gee"
    Released: September 1985 (1985-09)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [1]
Drowned in Sound (10/10) [2]
Robert Christgau (B+) [3]
Pitchfork Media (8.5/10) [4]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars (1998) [5]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars (2010) [6]
Uncut 5/5 stars[7]

Fables of the Reconstruction, also known as Reconstruction of the Fables, is the third studio album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released on the I.R.S. Records in 1985.



On the vinyl and cassette releases, side one was labeled the "A side" and side two "Another side." The "A side" label bore the title Fables of the Reconstruction, while "Another side" bore the title Reconstruction of the Fables. The front cover of all releases shows the words "Fables of the", while the back cover reads "Reconstruction of the". The CD label has the title simply as "Fables of the Reconstruction", while both spines are labeled "Reconstruction of the Fables". The ambiguous title makes possible reference to both the Reconstruction era of the United States and the literary process of deconstruction.

Despite the growing audience and critical acclaim experienced by the band after its first two albums, Murmur and Reckoning, R.E.M. decided to make noticeable changes to its style of music and recording habits, including a change in producer to Joe Boyd and in recording location to London, England.

Boyd was best known for his work with modern English folk musicians, including such acts such as Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. However, Fables was a conceptual record by R.E.M. standards. Lyrically, the album explores the mythology and landscape of the South. The title and chorus of "Cant Get There from Here", the album's first single (and intentionally misspelled, like most contractions and possessives in R.E.M. titles), is a rural American colloquialism sometimes used in response to a request by travelers for difficult directions. The video for the song received airplay on MTV.

The opening song, "Feeling Gravitys Pull", describes falling asleep while reading; Michael Stipe's lyrics also reference surrealist photographer Man Ray, setting the tone for the album. The song was a musical departure for the band, making use of a dark, chromatic guitar figure by Peter Buck, and a string quartet, while R.E.M.'s previous albums had opened with rhythmic, "jangly" rock songs. "Maps and Legends" fits the earlier sound and features distinct harmony vocals by bassist Mike Mills, singing different lyrics from Stipe. The song is dedicated to the Reverend Howard Finster, a noted outsider artist and the band considered Finster to be "a man of vision and feeling—a fine example to all" (Finster created the album sleeve for R.E.M.'s Reckoning the previous year).

"Driver 8" describes the scenery surrounding railroad tracks in somewhat abstract terms. Trains are a frequent motif in rural American music, suggesting the freedom and promise of an escape from one's home environment. Driven by a distinctive guitar riff, "Driver 8" was one of the songs on the album to receive college radio play, and the record company also authorized a music video. Beginning with a soft introduction, "Life and How to Live It" charged through another atmospheric, folk rock arrangement and referenced storytelling. Without mentioning him by name, the song was about Athens, GA author Brivs Mekis, as alluded to in the live performance on the And I Feel Fine... bonus disc. Mekis wrote a book titled Life: How to Live, and had it printed, only to have all existing copies of it stacked in his closet.[8]

Much of the band's songwriting material in this era also came from the members' own experiences traveling through the country in near-constant tours over the previous several years, as well as an increasing sense of political activism which would find expression on subsequent albums Lifes Rich Pageant and Document. Stipe later said[citation needed] that his previous lyrics never really had any literal meanings, and that by this time he had begun to write lyrics that told stories. For example, the Fables song "Green Grow the Rushes", which contains the line "the amber waves of gain", is thought to be[weasel words] about migrant farm laborers. "Kohoutek" (misspelled as "Kahoetek" in the album's liner notes) referenced the comet Kohoutek, and is perhaps one of the earliest R.E.M. songs about a romantic relationship, using the comet as a metaphor for a lover who, "like Kohoutek, you were gone." The song "Auctioneer (Another Engine)" deviated from the typical R.E.M. sound of the time, with jagged guitar riffs and more references to old rural ways of life.

The plaintive "Good Advices" contains the following Stipe lyric that has been quoted in musical and literary contexts: "When you meet a stranger, look at his shoes / keep your money in your shoes." A celebration of an eccentric individual is the subject of "Old Man Kensey" (which has lyrics by Stipe's friend Jerry Ayers) and closing track "Wendell Gee." The latter, a ballad with piano and more harmonies from Berry and Mills, was the album's third and final single in the UK only, although it made no commercial impression there.

Upon release, Fables of the Reconstruction reached #28 in the United States (going gold in 1991) and was the band's best showing yet in the UK, peaking at #35. Recorded during a period of internal strife—largely due to the R.E.M. members' homesickness and an unpleasant London winter—the band's unenthusiastic view of the album has been public for years, and is often reflected among fans and the press. Drummer Bill Berry was quoted in the early 1990s as saying that Fables of the Reconstruction "sucked"; frontman Michael Stipe once shared the opinion but lately has said he considers it home to some of their more notable songs, telling producer Joe Boyd that he had grown to love the album. Peter Buck, in the liner notes of the 25th Anniversary Deluxe edition, said, "Over the years, a certain misapprehension about Fables of the Reconstruction has built up. For some reason, people have the impression that the members of R.E.M. don't like the record. Nothing could be further from the truth. [...] It's a personal favorite, and I'm really proud of how strange it is. Nobody but R.E.M. could have made that record."[9]

Fables was often characterized by a slow tempo and an intentionally murky sound, in contrast with the more upbeat and jangly (if equally abstract) sound of earlier R.E.M. material. Nevertheless, the focus on American folk instruments such as the banjo in "Wendell Gee" and a few additional orchestrations (string instruments in "Feeling Gravitys Pull" and honking brass in "Cant Get There from Here") began the band's route toward the layered, acoustic-based sound they adopted for their popular breakthrough in the late '80s and early '90s with albums such as Green, Out of Time, and Automatic for the People.

The liner notes list a song titled "When I Was Young" as among the tracklisting, but it does not appear on the album. The song was played live several times during the 1985 "Preconstruction" U.S. college tour (a tour that took place before the release of the album), but it was quickly dropped. However, the song was reworked into "I Believe", released on the following album Lifes Rich Pageant. A demo version of "When I Was Young" appears as "Throw Those Trolls Away" on the 25th Anniversary Edition of Fables, released July 13, 2010; the CD-Text information on the disc, however, still identifies the song's title as "When I Was Young". [10]

Track listing

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe except as indicated.

Side one – "A Side"
  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" (Jerry Ayers, Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe) – 4:08
Side two – "Another Side"
  1. "Cant Get There from Here" – 3:39
  2. "Green Grow the Rushes" – 3:46
  3. "Kohoutek" – 3:18
  4. "Auctioneer (Another Engine)" – 2:44
  5. "Good Advices" – 3:30
  6. "Wendell Gee" – 3:01
1992 IRS Vintage Years reissue bonus tracks
  1. "Crazy" (Pylon)
  2. "Burning Hell"
    • B-side of "Can't Get There From Here" 12" single
  3. "Bandwagon" (Berry, Buck, Mills, Lynda Stipe, Stipe)
    • B-side of "Can't Get There From Here" 7" and 12" single
  4. "Driver 8" (Live)
  5. "Maps and Legends" (Live)
    • B-side of "The One I Love" 7" single
2010 25th Anniversary Edition reissue bonus tracks (The Athens Demos)
  1. "Auctioneer (Another Engine)"
  2. "Bandwagon" (Berry, Buck, Mills, Lynda Stipe, and Michael Stipe)
  3. "Cant Get There from Here"
  4. "Driver 8"
  5. "Feeling Gravitys Pull"
  6. "Good Advices"
  7. "Green Grow the Rushes"
  8. "Hyena"
  9. "Kohoutek"
  10. "Life and How to Live It"
  11. "Maps and Legends"
  12. "Old Man Kensey" (Ayers, Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe)
  13. "Throw Those Trolls Away"
  14. "Wendell Gee"


Additional musicians
  • David Bitelli – tenor and baritone saxophone on "Cant Get There from Here"
  • Camilla Brunt – violin on "Feeling Gravitys Pull"
  • Jim Dvorak – trumpet on "Cant Get There from Here"
  • Philippa Ibbotson – violin on "Feeling Gravitys Pull"
  • David Newby – cello on "Feeling Gravitys Pull"
  • Peter Thomas – tenor saxophone on "Cant Get There from Here"

Release history

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom 01985-06-10 June 10, 1985 I.R.S. vinyl LP MIRF1003
United States 01985-06-11 June 11, 1985 I.R.S. LP IRS-5592
cassette tape IRSC-5592
Compact Disc IRSD-5592
Greece 01985 1985 Illegal LP 26525
Australia 01985 1985 I.R.S./Epic LP ELPS 4495
The Netherlands 01985 1985 I.R.S. LP 26525
Worldwide 01990 1990 MCA Compact Disc 5592
I.R.S. cassette tape IRSC-5592
The Netherlands 01992-08-06 August 6, 1992 EMI Compact Disc 7 13160 2 9†
United Kingdom 01992 1992 Simply Vinyl 180-gram vinyl LP SVLP151
Worldwide 01998 1998 Capitol Compact Disc 93479
Europe 01998 1998 EMI Compact Disc 13160†
Worldwide 01999 1999 I.R.S. Compact Disc 19016
United States 01999 1999 Simply Vinyl LP 0000151
Europe 02000 2000 I.R.S. Compact Disc 7131602†

†I.R.S. Vintage Years edition, with bonus tracks

Chart performance

Year Chart Position
1985 U.S. Billboard 200 28 [11]
1985 UK Albums Chart 35[citation needed]
Year Song Chart Position
1985 "Cant Get There from Here" Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 14 [12]
1985 "Driver 8" Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 22 [12]


Organization Level Date
RIAA – United States Gold June 24, 1991 [13]


External links

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