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Apr 25, 2014







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The Decemberists,
The King is Dead Capitol Records, Jan. 18

By Eric Saeger news@hippopress.com



With the one-off “concept album” experiment from The Decemberists that was 2009’s Hazards of Love now in the books, the band turns again to the hayloft-indie space while claiming that three-minute pop songs are more difficult to put together than conceptual magnum opuses.  Were he alive, Bach might not agree, and there was a lot about Hazards that was simply too cool for school in a Zeppelinized-steampunk kind of way, but whatever.  The yodeling fadeout that closes “Calamity Song” is pressed against the sort of open-window drivetime mid-tempo guitar urgency native to REM, which is where we should mention Peter Buck, who guests on three of the songs. REM can’t be referenced merely in passing, though; pretty much the whole thing is a countrified Fiddle Faddle that many people will assume is Arcade Fire attempting to resurrect 1980s Atlanta (jump-off single “Down by the Water” flirts dangerously close to ripping off “The One I Love”). Departures include a grog-and-whaling accordion/fiddle break in the wry mining storyteller “Rox in the Box”; a nod to Jimmy Buffett in the sedate, Christmasy “January Hymn”; and some not-unlikeable NASCAR bluegrass (“All Arise”).

A-  —Eric W. Saeger
 






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