Tuesday, December 2, 2014
The Decemberists : "What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World"
What do I want from a new Decemberists album ? Why am I even asking that question aren't they out of place among the typical fare.You might not have guessed that I would be a huge fan of the Decemberists, having listened to the for over a decade and seen them four times live during that time. Their last album the "King is Dead" was a quaint stab at radio airplay, a gamble that paid off for them. So what do a think would be a perfect Decemberists album, well I would like to see the lyrics darken back up...of course and get back to the murder balladry of the past. A cross between the Hazards of Love with Picaresque.
I get this in doses, but not completely. The "Singer Addresses His Audience" is a irony coated ballad referring to their fan base and the pros and cons of selling out. There is a 70's strut in the vein of Tom Jones to "Calvary Captain". A little more upbeat than I hoped for , but it is well written, and the Fleetwood Mac hooks in it work well. The Chicago horns are a tad much."Philomena" finds the band returning closer to classic form. Though there is a tad dab of 50's pop to the guitar. The lyrics have more of a story telling feel to them. The single "Make You Better" is more indie rock and not what I had in mind for the perfect Decemberists album, but it works out better than I could have hoped. They can write the perfect song with ease when they want that rivals almost anything in classic rock.
Colin Meloy's voice has improved over the years.This can be heard in the tonal quality of it on "Lake Song". Here the strummed folk with a jazz like under current it works a familiar magic for the band. There is another introspective ballad this time with even more of the bands classic sound minus and pirate shanty elements with "Till the Water is Gone". You really get a good picture of how good of a guitarist Chris Funk. This is followed with "the Wrong Year" a pop song that is written in the classic world folk sound the band excels. It carries a hook with all the intention that they wrote the last album with, but draped in sounds long time fans should feel more comfortable with.
They head towards Appalachia on "Carolina Low". His melancholy and casts darker shadow on the album, very much in the Hazards if Love vein. The melody reminds me a little of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" . Better Not Wake the Baby" seems like an extension of "Carolina Low". "Anti-Summer Song" has some of the upbeat country elements from King is Dead, but with a little bit of drunken leprechaun to it and Bob Dylan like harmonica solo. The swanky western of "Easy Come, Easy Go" is back to the darker story telling we want from them. Their is a more Joe Cocker take on the "King is Dead" om "Mistral", but much smarter than their attempts to placate the masses.
They continue to float around this Bob Dylan like vibe on "12-17-12" which I imagine is his kid's birthday. It's well sung , but very minimal and my least favorite song on this album. "A Beginning Song" closes out the album, which also starts off sounding some more like Meloy's solo work.Until after the first minute when the rest of the bands slowly begins to fall in. The harmonies are particularly strong because it it doesn't sound like the most obvious country basked place to go.Like the bulk of their work there are rock elements with out being rock. This song will grow on me with each listen. I know their songs enough to know this. It doesn't take much to round this up to a 10. So this is the first great album of 2015.This may not slather them over the radio , but it secures their position with fans old and new. Something can be said for compromise.