Fables of the Reconstruction

They hated making it and have often dismissed it, but R.E.M.'s third record, a dark meditation on the soul of the South, has aged brilliantly. Recorded with producer Joe Boyd, Fables explored a craggy interiority they'd later smooth out; Peter Buck's moss-hung jangle and Michael Stipe's benedictive mumbling lent themselves to vague, spellbinding music that floats in the space between history and memory (this reissue adds a boring demos disc). There's a train song, a work song, two songs about sad old guys and "Can't Get There From Here," a poppy tune about not trusting maps that just missed being their first hit.

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