Friday, September 15, 2006

Reviews:: The Decemberists The Crane Wife

The Decemberists have traveled a strange road to get to where they are today. A artsy band singing about sea tales and chimbley sweeps isn’t the type of outfit you expect to jump to a major label. Given the subject matter and instrumentation the band used on their previous releases, I was a bit skeptical of their major label debut, The Crane Wife. I mean, would Capitol records let the band keep experimenting like they did with the The Tain, or would they try to reign the band in an use Colin’s ability to write an infectious pop song as a vessel for alienating every Decemberist fan for the sake of a few album sales?

Well upon hearing that the record took its title and two songs from a Japanese folk tale, my fears were eased. Instead of changing their style to reach more fans, the band actually went the complete opposite way and delivered their best album since Castaways and Cutouts. The Island, Come and See, The Landlord’s Daughter, You’ll Not Feel Like Drowning is an 11 minute prog-rock gem that despite the length could actually fit seamlessly into a classic rock radio show or a Jack Black solo performance. The band uses a more electric, aggressive sound (like the almost crunchy sound of When the War Came) and really takes some risks despite the pressure of answering to a higher power.

Fans of their previous albums shouldn’t worry either. With tracks like the Moz influenced O Valencia, the the Shankill Butcher’s and Sons and Daughters, Meloy still gives the people what they want, it is just surrounded by some of their most ambitious work to date. Lyrically, Meloy is up to his old tricks. Laced with literary and historical references and insightful word play, the songs are depressing tales of murder, rape and loss wrapped in sing-along melodies – what Decemberist fan is going to complain about that?

Using the highly developed skills of Chris Walla and Tucker Martine to produce the album, the effort seems polished, without losing the intimate feel required to pull these tracks off. Walla’s skills have kept Death Cab’s music exciting even as they move further towards the pop genre and I think he and Tucker have focused the band’s intentions perfectly.

The track that stands out for me on this album is the 70’s infused funk number, The Perfect Crime 2. When the organ starts wailing at shows, something new is going to happen. All of the hipsters (myself included) are going to forget about looking cool and are going to start to dance. The organ breakdown actually reminds me of Soulive.

Do I think the band is going to find a new audience with this record? Probably not, but they will most certainly strengthen the bond they have with fans they’ve picked up over the years.

MP3:: O Valencia – via Red Blondehead
MP3:: The Perfect Crime 2

Posted at 11:34 AM by ack :: 4 comments

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At 5:57 PM, Anonymous David Frayre did sayeth:

mmmmm... yeah... i have to admitthati was a bit afraid they would change their style, but i am glad they didnt change it... although from interviews of colin meloy i ve read it hought the music was going to be a lot more agressive something like what happened in the tain because Colin Meloy said that The Crane Wife was going to be more like the tain than picaresque ... anyways the band still rocks and i am going to see them in Tucson Az.

 

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Big Tom Casual did sayeth:

I completely agree on The Perfect Crime 2. That's my favorite track here, though I enjoy nearly all of it. A very strong album.

 

At 3:10 AM, Anonymous Nick did sayeth:

I think the album's fantastic, but I don't really dig The Perfect Crime 2 much at all. At the moment I'm in love with the hooky, singalong type songs, like The Crane Wife 3 and Sons and Daughters. Another fantastic Decemberists album though.

 

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Kevin in Cypress did sayeth:

The Crane Wife is more than I expected and I had high expectations. I personally can't get enough of the Crane Wife 1&2. They are definitely growing musically and Meloy expands his vocal range for all the non-believers. Great article!

I don't believe in major label curses anywho. If the band is solid...they will produce a quality product. The Decemberists prove that.

 

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