The Music Box: The Decemberists Toss Out The Mysticism On “The King Is Dead”

Track Listing:

  1. Don’t Carry It All
  2. Calamity Song
  3. Rise To Me
  4. Rox In The Box
  5. January Hymn
  6. Down By The Water
  7. All Arise!
  8. June Hymn
  9. This Is Why We Fight
  10. Dear Avery

The Band:

Since the band’s inception at the dawn of the current century, The Decemberists modus operandi is one cloaked in mysticism from the concepts of its albums to the grandiose vocabulary from which Colin Meloy constructs his lyric sets.  The Oregon outfit ran completely amuck in 2009 with the release of The Hazards Of Love, a Disney-esque fairytale complete with pixies and a more complicated love story than a Shakespearean narrative.

Release Date: 1/18/11

The Review:

The Decemberists’ upcoming sixth studio release, The King Is Dead, is pretty much the antithesis of the The Hazards Of Love. There is no concept, no paranormal activity, and rather than the folky, artsy fashioned music in which the band is privy to creating, this is instead a collection of Americana and Rock N’ Roll tunes, influenced by the likes of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and a substantial dose of R.E.M. thanks to the assistance of that band’s lead guitarist, Peter Buck, on a trio of tracks, including the opening salvo “Don’t Carry It All.”

This record isn’t an enigma and shows you exactly where the band’s head was at during he recording process on the very first note played, a blaring and extended harmonica blast of energy capable of restoring the heartbeat to a member of the recently deceased.  And “Don’t Carry It All” doesn’t stop at restoring vitality but serves as a reminder to make each breath count.  We should all heed the track’s warning and “let the yoke fall from our shoulders.”  Even the largest of dilemmas are curable so be sure to let the little things go because someday we’ll all receive, as only Colin Meloy can write it, “a monument to build beneath the arbors.”

Peter Buck is back on the very next track entitled “Calamity Song,” a tune that brings to mind the Springsteen rarity “From Small Things (Big Things one Day Come),” due to it’s graphic subject-matter played out over catchy Pop-Rock instrumentals.  “Calamity Song” will go down as the best-selling and most beautifully written rendition of the impending apocalypse due to strike earth in 2012.  “Had a dream/” croons Meloy, “You and me and the war of the end-times/And I believe/California succumbed to the fault line/We heaved relief as scores of innocents died.”  Meloy goes on to mention the Andalusian tribes (Mayans) setting Nebraska alight, as in, on fire.  By the end of this tale, amongst the global destruction and immense loss of life, Meloy ponders if anything can actually change within a culture set in its class structured ways…”Will we now/build a civilization below ground/And I’ll be crowned the community kick-it-around.”

“Rox In The Box” and “Down By The Water” are a pair of the most rocking songs to be added to The Decembrists’ catalogue since The Crane Wife‘s “O Valencia.”  The former is a song that wouldn’t be out of place in a dark, dank, harbor-side dive bar and would undoubtedly have the drunken mariners swinging their mugs back and forth.  The latter, “Down By The River,” is the first single off the record and would mesh nicely within The Boss’ harmonica laden archive somewhere between “Mansion On The Hill” and “The Promise Land.”

I had always wondered what it would sound like if The Decemberists stepped back, let their minds simmer, and simplified the creative process; subtract the magical creatures, the complexity, and the chaotic plots and what’s left is my favorite album of this young year.

The Rating: 4/5

Other Key Tracks:

“Rise To Me” – Meloy serenades his son Henry about the trials of life urging to stand strong when the treacherous winds try to blow him down.

“This Is Why We Fight” – This track is a cry for freedom above all else.  “And when we die,” sings Meloy “we will die/with our arms unbound/This is why we fight/come hell.”

About rote7123

Chris graduated from The College Of New Jersey in May 2011 with a Bachelor Degree in Journalism and Professional Writing, as well as a degree in Communication Studies. He has held down a position in the Asbury Park Press’ Sports Department since September of 2010 and is a contributor to the outlet's Arts & Entertainment section, and has contributed to The Aquarian Weekly all while being the sole operator of Asbury Park's premier music news outlet Speak Into My Good Eye.
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One Response to The Music Box: The Decemberists Toss Out The Mysticism On “The King Is Dead”

  1. Pingback: Bonnaroo Day 2: The Decemberists “Threaten” Those In Lawn Chairs, Set Gets Mixed Reviews, SIMGE Loves IT | Speak Into My Good Eye

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