Putting opinions on reunion tours (and the entire fate of rock) aside, a good reissue makes the perfect excuse to revisit an old favorite or get into it for the first time—and gives die-hard fans something new to obsess about. Fables of the Reconstruction, digitally remasters the original 1985 R.E.M. release, pairing it with 14 previously-unreleased demos (including the debut of "Throw Those Trolls Away") and lots of extras to encourage purchasing of the physical set.
In addition to four postcards and a poster, the edition includes liner notes by guitarist Peter Buck, adding insight to the seminal band's early years and what it was like to record the album with producer Joe Boyd, known for his work with Nick Drake, Pink Floyd and other Brit artists. "Nobody but R.E.M. could have made that record. It took our four twisted personalities and the legendary Joe Boyd to make an album that character-filled and vibey," Buck concludes.
That "vibey" sound marked a departure for the young band hailing from Athens, GA. Recorded in London during a harsh winter in 1985, the album was their third (this reissue follows recent re-releases of the first two) and as the title suggests the concept takes on R.E.M.'s Southern heritage, with a more narrative lyrical approach.
While Fables did well on the charts (especially in the U.K.) when it was released, only more recently have fans and frontman Michael Stipe had more positive reviews of the album. Listening to the layered post-punk-meets-acoustic instrumentation today not only feels particularly relevant at a moment with an abundance of similarly neo-psychedelic bands, but also speaks to a transition in the bands history that made them a mainstream success.
For music nerds who care about these things, the bonus tracks, recorded in Athens shortly before departing for London, make that point too—with many of them stemming from soundchecks during R.E.M.'s 1984 tour and a few going on to form the basis of future releases.
The two-CD set and a 180-gram vinyl edition drop in the U.S. on 13 July 2010 and 12 July 2010 everywhere else. Pre-order the CDs from Amazon.