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Album Review

R.E.M. 'Fables of the Reconstruction: 25th Anniversary Edition'

July 12, 2010

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In 1985, shortly after they begat a new definition of American modern rock and shortly before they evolved into a stadium colossus, R.E.M. released “Fables of the Reconstruction,’’ a futurist folk record of sorts. The Athens, Ga., band’s third full-length, “Fables’’ is a far cry from the jangly, mumbled R.E.M. template of yore — for one, Michael Stipe’s voice is intelligible, his lyrics rich with characters and story, and Peter Buck’s guitar arpeggios are beefed up by effects. But for all its clarity and muscle, “Fables’’ is arguably the weirdest LP in R.E.M.’s catalog, moving from a hesitant, metallic grind (“Feeling Gravity’s Pull’’) to near-pastoral tenderness (“Green Grow the Rushes’’), inverted Byrds-osity (“Maps and Legends’’), and insanely catchy power-pop (“Driver 8’’). As with most R.E.M. records, bassist Mike Mills’s soaring harmonies are the secret weapon: See “Life and How to Live It’’ and “Can’t Get There From Here.’’ This two-disc “25th Anniversary Edition’’ proves that “Fables’’ is one of the more rewarding R.E.M. albums to revisit, rich with idiosyncrasy, left-field impulses, and solid tunes. (Out tomorrow)

ZETH LUNDY

ESSENTIAL “Life and How to Live It’’