29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Decemberists - Long live the king
"The King is Dead" the new and sixth album by Portland's finest "The Decemberists" sees Colin Meloy and chums return with an album of much more straightforward songs than their previous theatrical concept outing "The Hazards of Love". The consequence for this reviewer is unadulterated pleasure since while Hazards was an impressive piece of work it is the Decemberists of...
Published on 17 Jan 2011 by Red on Black
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff.
This was my first introduction to the band and generally speaking i thoroughly enjoyed it. My only slight niggle is a song about three in that is completely out of keeping with the rest of the album. Sounds like a very early R.E.M homage. I understand Pete Buck worked on this one, which highlights the influence.
Published on 9 Mar 2011 by Mr. Nhj Barnes
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Decemberists - Long live the king,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)"The King is Dead" the new and sixth album by Portland's finest "The Decemberists" sees Colin Meloy and chums return with an album of much more straightforward songs than their previous theatrical concept outing "The Hazards of Love". The consequence for this reviewer is unadulterated pleasure since while Hazards was an impressive piece of work it is the Decemberists of the "Picaresque" era which really starts the pulses racing. Having listened to this album for two weeks streaming on NPR you will find a hugely accessible and accomplished set full of crisp Americana based songs with enough hooks to catch mackerel as evidenced by the thumping opener "Don't carry it all". In the background throughout "TKID" you will also detect the influence of two master musicians namely the jangle guitar miester Peter Buck from REM and one of gods representatives on earth, Gillian Welch the great Appalachian style country singer who sings on seven of the ten tracks.
Listen to the huge alt country ballad "Rise to me" or the gentling rolling "All arise" full of guitars, fiddle, accordion, harmonica and pedal steel to detect Welch's direct influence and it is a force for good. Not that this greater simplicity has blunted Meloy's wordy gymnastics. Anyone who can rhyme "enzymes" with "fault line" deserves a pat on the back as does the use of REM style "Reckoning" era motifs in the brilliant "Calamity song". The rollicking "Rox in the box" sounds like a nod to Mike Scott and his folk fest "Room to roam" and for good measure the Decemberists throw in a snatch of the folk standard "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" to add spice. Meloy's acoustic guitar picked ballads are always lovely and sumptuous and "January Hymn" is one of his finest yet and will one day figure on the "Best of the Decemberists". To add icing to the cake they partly reprise it with the equally sublime "June Hymn" later in the album. Another of the album's many highlights "Down by the water" starts with a haunting Springsteen like harmonica and brilliant backing vocals from Welch and combines with faint echoes of REMs "The One I love" tantalizing in the background. It's stirring stuff and destined to rock summer festivals. Meloy also admits that the excellent "This is why we fight" owes a huge debt to the Smiths with its Johnny Marr guitar lines and rousing pace (perhaps the title of the album also tips a nod to the Smiths epic "the Queen is dead"?). The brakes are put on however for the final track the ever so gentle "Dear Avery" where Welch enlists her musical partners Dave Rawlings and fellow Portlander Laura Viers to provide backing vocals.
"The King is Dead" is an understated album devoid of complexity, twelve minute prog epics and Gentle Giant like chord progressions. As such if this is what attracts you to this great band then some disappointment will follow since the template here is Neil Young's simple wonder "Comes a time" which has provided Meloy with the source inspiration for the mood of the album. This is very much the Decemberists "Americana" roots album, strong on songs, melodies and with choruses designed to infiltrate your head with greater effectiveness than a Paul McKenna hypnotist session. It is a real pearl of an album and proves what a great songwriter Colin Meloy has become. All in all a fantastic opener for 2011.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A return to form.,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)For 'The King Is Dead', it seems that The Decemberists have gone backwards to go forwards. This album echoes the sound of their earlier albums, and not 2009's 'The Hazards of Love', an album that polarized both fans and critics. As you will see across many reviews, this album has a simpler sound, though that certainly isn't a criticism. The majority of the songs clock in at around 3 minutes and immediately hit the mark upon your first listen. Some songs are sombre, and some simply put a smile on your face, it accompanies every type of emotion. From the beautiful melodies to the sometimes soul-searching lyrics, this is an album that you won't regret buying, and one that you'll find yourself listening to for quite some time!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simplicity hits the spot,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)2009's `The Hazards Of Love' saw something of a culmination for The Decemberists, of albums so steeped in invention and ingenuity that they bordered on becoming intimidating to a casual listener. But their latest release sees a bold departure from the conceptual thought that defined previous works - embracing said casual listener, `The King Is Dead' is The Decemberists in their most simple, most endearing form.
But in doing the good deed and stepping aside from writing albums as complex as their past two (`The Crane Wife' builds upon a tale from Japanese folklore, whilst `The Hazards Of Love', spanning an entire hour, was self-described as a rock opera), by simplifying everything, they've taken the risk of alienating an adoring and loyal fan base hanging on Colin Meloy's every move. It is essentially a no-win situation. Except from the fact that in `The King Is Dead', we're given songs so charming and immediate that you can forgive the five-piece for settling down for the first time in their ten-year tenure as one of the more complex and intriguing bands around.
`The King Is Dead' pays a direct and noticeable homage to R.E.M and in particular their second album, 1984's `Reckoning'. Having listened to the record, Meloy took it upon himself to re-ignite that flame and incorporate R.E.M's own style of song-writing into his band's work. To complete this alter-ego, he hired guitarist Peter Buck to assist in making something wholesome and true to the plan.
And from `Calamity Song's triumphant chorus onwards, it begins to dawn on you just how very stark R.E.M's influence is. Although characterised by old-fashioned Americana, `The King Is Dead' puts the band in a completely different light; playing songs that fizzle into the depths of your memory glands, more effectively than at any other point in their career so far. The sedated, campfire-companion `Rise To Me', more akin to Band Of Horses than a highlight on `Reckoning', is equally as devastating. The absolute standout however, comes in the form of penultimate track `This Is Why We Fight'. Offering a newly-founded glimpse of drama and brutishness, Meloy declares "When we die, we will die, with out arms unbound" against a backdrop of pounding drums. It contrasts to everything else on the album and like a bolt of light in the dark, it re-asserts The Decemberists' talent of surprising their listener.
`This Is Why We Fight' is an encouraging solace to fans who might cave in to the thought that their favourite band are putting their feet up. They remain an unrivalled force in music and despite the concern that `The King Is Dead' is nothing more than a generous offering of pastoral American rock, you wouldn't bet against the group's next work being their most challenging
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Album of the year already ?,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)I've got a confession to make.I'm a bit of a closet proggy. There it's out now. So when I heard the Cranewife a couple of years ago my ears pricked up. It's the first time I heard the Decemberists and thought the album was excellent. Then along came The Hazards Of Love, the Decemberists's equivalent of Yes's Tales From The Topographic Ocean. The proggy part of my musical psyche enjoyed it but other parts protested, complaining of overblown pretension. So the pre-ordered, latest offering was awaited with guarded apprehension. Were we going to get more pomp or what ? Well, the what turns out to be a set of carefully crafted, what, on the surface sounds like fairly simple songs, but don't be fooled. Still waters run deep, just like these songs. From the beautiful simplicity of January Hymn to the catchy Rox In The Box, every song is superbly crafted with tunes you can't get out of your head. There's enough in Colin Meloy's lyrics to keep you interested, but you wouldn't expect anything less. Last year I wrote that Nathalie Merchant's Leave Your Sleep was my album of the year. Now in the midst of January, I'll be pleasantly surprised if I hear anything better during the rest of the year. I'm looking forward to seeing them live in Bexhill this coming March.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Album,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)I've been a long time fan of the Decemberists and they seem to be one of those rare bands that continually make great music without sounding too samey. worth a shot!
5.0 out of 5 stars mighty fine,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (MP3 Download)I thought picaresque was their finest work but this certainly gives it a run for its money. not a dud song on the album
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful example of folk revival,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)This album is refreshing, after all the mainstream pop-punk or R n' B that's around The Decemberists provide alternative-country from Portland, Oregon - USA and do it extremely well. The King Is Dead contains some real gems, `Dear Avery' being one of them. Its simple melody and female harmony make for a very attractive combination. The song is well crafted & the melody is sweet and well sung, it just works. Colin Meloy's vocal has an interesting twang and his accent makes the album as it's different from anything else I've heard. The album as a whole flows together very well, going from the soft folksy `January Hymn' that has a lovely fade-in intro to `Down By The Water' which has a much more rock-y feel but still sounds like it belongs to the same album. The Decemberists use violins, guitars, harmonica and accordions to create their folk inspired rock and this is what keeps The King Is Dead so fresh. The light-hearted feel I get from it really differentiates it from other more down-beat albums of this year - The Decemberists have given us an album of real music.
4.0 out of 5 stars Still just out of Perfection's Reach,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)With their previous record, the highly theatrical, experimental, Hazards of Love, The Decemberists had reached the peak of their storytelling powers, but the record itself was somewhat lacking musically in comparison to their earlier successes. Yet with this album, the band have musically returned to a softer sound reminiscnt of the older records, but lyrically this album does lack somewhat. All the same, it is a great listen, particularly if your taking a walk through the country on a hot summer day.
The opening, summer anthem, Don't Carry It All is a great way to start the track, and the following Calamity Song, is another great number. The record takes a softer turn with Rise To Me, which is a stunning number which really grows on you with time. It is followed by the catchy, very country-sounding, Rox In The Box, one of the best tracks on the record.
January Hymn is a song I've never had a liking for. The music and Meloy's voice is dull, and the lyrics are pretty mediocre too, but the album is saved by the harmonica blazing single, Down By The Water. It is such a shame that such a great song is stuck between January Hymn and then All Arise! probably the worst song I have heard from the band, (but there aren't many mind).
We then have three strong closing tracks. June Hymn, far superior to January Hymn, another anthem, This Is Why We Fight and a quietly humble ending in Dear Avery.
I think that this record is a step up from The Hazards of Love, because it is a mellow record that is much easier to listen to and contains a great mixture of country ballads, storming anthems and catchy poppy numbers. It is also probably their most commercial effort, which is by no means a bad thing, although to reach the great hieghts of the Picaresque Era, The Decemberists really need to return to their origional sound and refine it, something that a band of their capabilities is easily capable of.
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like this...,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)The King is Dead was my introduction to the Decemberists, with some great tracks (and a few duffers). Since then I have been exploring the back catalogue, to wit...
- THE CRANE WIFE is (for me) the next port of call from "The King is Dead" - some great pop songs, a few challenging moments, and a more complex listen overall but well worth it
- The earlier albums (Picaresque, Her Majesty, Castaways) have some truly great moments and a much more folksy, shambolic feel. There's a video on Youtube of the Mariner's Revenge which gives a good idea what else to expect
- The Hazards of Love is a big investment: dense, complex and initially hard work. It needs to be listened from start to finish to make sense of it
- Various EPs and odd tracks: highlight for me is the "Always the Bridesmaid" set
All in all, a bit of a find for the lover of "proper" music.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Beautiful, Melodic, and Rewarding Listen....,
This review is from: The King Is Dead (Audio CD)Toe in the water for me with the The Decemberists... but I'm now underwater and a fully baptised convert. Best album I've listened to in a long while. Americana / Folk at its very best, reminiscent of early REM (not surprising with Peter Buck strumming away in the background). Rewards with every listen, take off those shoes and socks and wiggle your toe in too!
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