Old Man Kensey
February 12, 2008
Much of Fables of the Reconstruction is concerned with the mystique of outsiders, specifically misunderstood or overlooked older men living in small towns. It’s an interesting area of fascination for a young band. Whereas your average rock band full of young dudes is primarily focused on the narrow confines of their own psyches or speaking of the outside world in broad, unintentionally condescending terms, Stipe’s mix of empathy and curiosity when investigating the lives of characters on the margins of society seems both humane, and ever so slightly sexual. (It’s not so hard to think of some of the songs on Fables as being like mash notes to their respective characters.) All of the characters are more or less eccentric, but the most important and consistent connection is that they are aloof, impenetrable and unknowable. Stipe’s interest is exacerbated by their refusal to connect, and the romance comes from their willful separation from what the observer may believe to be the corrupting influence of modern life. In other words, it’s a young man’s search for purity and authenticity. “Old Man Kensey” can remain untainted and perfect because he’s not a man, per se — he’s an idea of a man, a concept that cannot be ruined by the harshness of reality.