The Just Played Verdict: The Decemberists ‘The King Is Dead’

After their rather adventurous, opinion-dividing previous outing, ‘The Hazards Of Love’, The Decemberists opt for a back to basics approach with this, their sixth album. Having strayed from their ‘charming sea shanties by an indie band’ template of late, it’s a delight to luxuriate in the rich tones of Colin Meloy‘s voice in full flight on these relatively simple songs.

decemberists kid

Starting an album with a shrill blast of harmonica, rarely an instrument which provokes an “oh goodie” from the listener, is a bold statement of intent on this country-tinged collection. ‘Don’t Carry It All’ turns out to be a mid-paced stomper with a charming sing-song quality despite this particular adornment, whilst ‘This Is Why We Fight’ already sounds like one of those insistent tracks you’ll be putting on your end of year compilation many months from now.

‘Calamity Song’, Meloy aside, comes across as if plucked directly from R.E.M.‘s ‘Reckoning‘. Indeed, there are numerous other times during this record when it’s hard not to be reminded of Athens, Georgia’s most famous exports in full jangle mode. Think somewhere between ‘Green’ and ‘Out Of Time’ and you’ll not be far wrong. But who’s that in the corner? Why, it’s Peter Buck, who plays on three tracks and makes the audible link a little easier to understand.

The King Is Dead’ is a concerted effort to pursue simplicity; Meloy explains that “over the last eleven years or so, since I moved to Portland, I feel like I’ve been mining mostly English traditions for influence. I guess I’ve come back to a lot of the more American music that got me going in the first place – R.E.M. and Camper Van Beethoven and all these bands that borrowed from more American traditions like Neil Young and The Byrds.” The distinctive Decemberists sound is still very much in evidence and the fact that the reference points being used are all a fine listen in their own right means that ‘The King Is Dead’ is no lifeless retread of old ideas.

While not scaling the heights of ‘Picaresque’ or ‘The Crane Wife’, this measured offering is a finessed folk-rock record likely to bring a little taste of long summer evening drives to the glacial January gloom.

2011OTR

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s