R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction: #638 of best 1,000 albums ever!

R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction

Why is R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

Maybe these maps and legends have been misunderstood.

Some stats & info about R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, College Rock, Jangle Pop, Indie Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating4 out of 5 stars
  • When was Fables of the Reconstruction released? 1985
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #638 out of 1,000

R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.

What does R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

Even within the daunting (yet rewarding!) task (quest?) of cataloging the best 1,000 albums ever, it’s a strange thing to figure out what the “worst” album is from one of my most favorite bands of all time.

Which, spoiler, R.E.M. is for sure.

There have been so many interesting and pleasant surprises for me in the course of this project, and some of them are specific to R.E.M. For example, for the last 4-5 years I’ve been an apologist and champion of Around the Sun from 2004, an album that in my view is vastly underrated. And that feeling only deepened while putting together the best 1,000 albums ever. What was fascinating to me though was how much greater my admiration for 2001’s Reveal became.

Now, if you’re a serious fan of R.E.M., you may well be thinking, “Well, that’s wonderful, but here you’re implying that the early era — way pre-Bill Berry leaving the band — Fables of the Reconstruction is your lowest-ranked R.E.M. album?”

Well, yes. And I’m maybe as surprised as you are in some ways. But it is also #638 of the best 1,000 albums ever, which is… pretty high, relatively speaking, I’d wager?

For many R.E.M. purists (if that’s a thing?), I’d guess that “Driver 8” would be their standout song from this album, but for me it’s the dreamy and immersive “Maps and Legends.” Like so many early R.E.M. songs, the lyrics are cryptic and packed with imagery. For me, oddly enough, I’m reminded of loving old maps when I was a kid. I’d stare at books of maps for hours.

“Kohoutek” has a good measure of the “classic” R.E.M jangle pop sound that would really be perfected on albums like Document and Life’s Rich Pageant.

“Green Grow the Rushes” is a beautiful, softer number that incorporates a little bit of a country twang into the folk punk meets college rock mix.

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction

I was convinced for a long time that there was like a B-side or outtakes version of this album called Reconstruction of the Fables but, nope, it turns out that it’s just an alternative album title. There’s some other interesting tid bits to sift through on the album’s Wikipedia page, such as that the album was recorded in London. Legend has it that it was a brutally cold winter and that in part caused tension in the band that may have come through in the sound of the album in some ways.

The other big takeaway I have from Fables of the Reconstruction is how much I’ve grown to love versions of some of the album’s songs that are on another album. Namely the brilliant Live at the Olympia, which is jam packed with great stuff. “Auctioneer” and “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” sound spectacular on that live album.