If there’s one album in my music collection of which I could never tire, its R.E.M.’s 1985 classic Fables of the Reconstruction. I think that’s in part because I have no idea what most of its songs are about — or even what Michael Stipe is singing in half of them.
Reading over the lyrics of ‘Kohoutek,’ I realized that despite hearing and loving it hundreds of times I had never really paid any attention to its words. Because they don’t matter… not really. What matters is the sound and the feel.
Today’s selection, rounding out my top five desert island songs, fits nicely into the discussion in yesterday’s comment section.
Dana might argue that I’m closing out with an R.E.M. song because they are one of my favorite bands. I would counter that R.E.M. is one of my favorite bands because of this song (which I featured in its original form as SOTD #201).
R.E.M. is best known as one of the forefathers of the alternative music genre, but in terms of sound I place them squarely in the folk rock tradition. Particularly on their early albums, you can trace Peter Buck’s guitar work straight back to The Byrds.
The band evolved into more of a rock sound — even grunge on 1994’s Monster and parts of subsequent albums — and also found success with the pop style (particularly on Green and Out of Time).
Best Albums of the 80s – #3
Fables of the Reconstruction – R.E.M. (1985)
Four artists in my 80s list also showed up on my 90s list — Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, U2 and R.E.M.
R.E.M. is the only one to place in the top five of both lists. It’s easy to forget, given their long slow fade, how dominant this band was for a very long time.
I was out of town when R.E.M. announced their break-up, so the news didn’t reach me right away. I saw a couple of Facebook friends post R.E.M. songs without any context and thought it an odd coincidence, but I didn’t assume it was pegged to news about the band.
A day later I read a short story about the announcement in USA Today, a rare case (these days) of learning about something for the first time in a newspaper.
My response was not sadness, but a mixture of relief and nostalgia. I imagine most long-term R.E.M. fans had a similar reaction.