Review Revue: R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction

After a couple different recent posts about the various producers tied to R.E.M.’s early recordings, it seems like it’s about time we stopped beating around the bush, grabbed the bull by its horns, and some other appropriate cliche, too. What I’m saying is, it’s time we discussed the mother of all American College Rock bands, the band that went from mumbling in bars in Athens, Georgia to performing their rock anthems to some of the biggest audiences in the world: the one, the only, R.E.M.

For their third full-length album, the band decided not to record with Mitch Easter and/or Don Dixon, whose production had helped define their earlier sound. Instead they elected to jump across the pond and work with Joe Boyd, who’d been making records for decades in the British folk scene, working with such luminaries as Nick Drake, Richard and Linda Thompson, Fairport Convention, and many more.

Pre-existing fans of the band might have been divided on whether this change was a good thing (see below), but in the long run it certainly can’t be said to have hurt the band, and this album, while not a huge seller, was absolutely an important stepping-stone in their long career.

“I can’t figure out this LP jacket, mon. This way it opens backwards, uh, sorry. 4th release from our Athens, GA palz. Not produced by Mitch Easter but rather [some words lost due to ripped label, no doubt referring to Joe Boyd, etc.]. As far as production, to me it’s fairly similar in approach, yet has some new touches – strings, backing vocalists, Gang o’ 4-like guitars (A-1). Oh yeah, the vocals are even more distinguishable – soon we’ll be able to make R.E.M. songbooks. [Indeed.]”

“I have nothing to say.”

“I like ‘Can’t’ better than anything they’ve ever done before.”

“I want to adore this. I know I will soon.”


“Why try so hard.”

“My patience has been rewarded.”

“P.S. I’m not too fond of the production tho.”

“This means it’s time I spoke… THIS IS SUPREMELY GODLIKE!”

“REM’s never impressed me before, most of their stuff seems pretty dull to me, but ‘Feeling Gravity’s Pull’ is surprisingly neato!”

“They haven’t lost they’re [sic] integrity. How do they stay the same. (Are they samey?)”

“Mine opens upside down.”

“‘Life and How to Live It.'”

“This is my fave R.E.M. LP – yeah, yeah, so it’s everyone else’s least favorite. Dark, haunting, melodic, chilling — check out the song w/the Russian title as well as ‘Maps and Legends’ and ‘Green Grow the Rushes.'”

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  1. Sam
    Posted October 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Wow, having worked at a few (3) college radio stations, the idea of doing this is, well, to quote a scribe: “neato!”

    Y’oughta include the names of the people that made the comments. I’m sure those guys/gals were KEXP legends in their time/mind. If there are any KEXP oldtimers who read this, they’d enjoy seeing their friends (or enemies – it ain’t college radio w/o a little drama. At least in my day), or themselves, name-checked.

    btw, I also liked “Can’t” better than anything they’d done before. ‘Cept, maybe, Catapult.

  2. Damon Creed
    Posted October 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    We were known as KCMU legends back then.

  3. Levi
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Sam; I hope you’ll go read back over the past 3+ years (!) of this column. Rather than risk annoying someone who doesn’t want to be named, or try to contact every single old DJ here, I tend to refrain from including their names (also, most of them sign with nicknames, initials, first names, or not at all) – Damon, of course, is happy to own his comments and chime in on occasion with some context, which is always nice.

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