So the King is Dead, or so The Decemberists would have you believe in this melodic sixth release from one of the best folk-rock outfits in the business. It is laden with tributes and subtleties, some good, some bad. The album name is a tribute to The Smiths’ “The Queen is Dead” and at least three songs sound like they were composed by R.E.M. with lyrics being filled in by Colin Meloy.
This is their first album to go to number 1 on the U.S album charts, doing so in the first week since it’s January 18th release. I was surprised by this as I do not believe it is their best work. Clearly they have built up a strong fan base through albums such as “The Hazards of Love” and “The Crane Wife” that has allowed the anticipation of their new release to put them on top of the charts with an album I would say is quite average and not brilliant. Sure there are a couple of catchy tunes, in fact all the tracks are, so it’s easy listening, but that also means it’s easy to get distracted away from the album.
R.E.M. is a fantastic influence (and I look forward to the upcoming R.E.M. release of which I’ve heard one awesome track) but playing your guitar from the R.E.M. playbook has two potential results – reap great rewards or fail miserably. Every R.E.M. album has either been brilliant or shit. I would not want that to become a characteristic of The Decemeberists.
The Decemberists deserve to be at the top, so here’s hoping this album has been a stopgap for some good creative release, and we’ll see the Decemberists back in their brilliant top form soon.
Oh and here’s a straight up comparison to show you what The Decemberists sounding like R.E.M. sound like. Around 48 seconds into Down by the water should start convincing you.
First: Down by the water: [audio:http://www.52weeks.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/06-Down-By-The-Water.mp3|titles=The Decemberists – Down By The Water]
Then: The One I Love: [audio:http://www.52weeks.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/07-The-One-I-Love.mp3|titles=REM – The One I Love]
You can stream the entire album from RollingStone.com here.