R.E.M – ” Fables Of The Reconstruction ” Released 35 Years Ago

Posted: June 11, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

“Driver 8” kicks off the strongest two-song sequence on “Fables of the Reconstruction” with a bluesy guitar riff that mimics the forward thrust of a locomotive. Add in the insistent repetition of “Take a break, Driver 8/ Driver 8, take a break” that carries over from the first verse into the chorus, and you’re left with the distinct impression of a train barreling through a Southern landscape with no brakes and a crew strung-out on lack of sleep. But something about the song’s mood or urgency shifts as it arrives at the second verse, where all of a sudden Michael Stipe pauses to soak in the imagery that surrounds him: a tree house on a farm, church bells ringing, children playing in the field. But just as the driving riffs give way to arpeggiated chords, so do these pastoral relics of the South give way to images of power lines and other vaguely sinister representations of modernity. Like many of the best R.E.M. songs, “Driver 8” doesn’t pick sides. Not quite sad and not quite celebratory, it keeps its quiet revelations close to the chest.

Fables of the Reconstruction contains plenty of wisdom — including this song, inspired by the title of the book Life: How to Live written by a local Athens character named Brivs Mekis. The lyrics are whimsical — they detail Mekis’ eccentric habits — but suit the bustling music. In particular, Bill Berry’s drumming bristles with spring-loaded energy, which pushes the song forward and highlights the urgency inherent in Peter Buck’s circular riffs and the water-falling backing vocals. R.E.M. dusted off “Life and How to Live It” occasionally even during their final tour, and it became even more galvanizing as the years passed.

Rolling Stone wrote: “Listening to Fables of the Reconstruction is like waking up in a menacing yet wonderful world underneath the one we’re familiar with. R.E.M. undermines our certitude in reality and deposits us in a new place, filled with both serenity and doubt, where we’re forced to think for ourselves.”

The band’s fourth LP – A concept album with Southern Gothic themes and characters
Released: 10th June 1985 – 35 years ago

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