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  1. And finally, a live recording of the “Hazards Of Love” tour from the Royal Oak Music Theatre in Michigan, 11th August 2009. The entire album from start to finish. As I’ve said before, I’d love to have seen this tour and this is the closest I’ll ever get.

    That’s the end of our time with The Decemberists for a while, they will make another appearance later on. If you were unaware of them and decided to give them a go because of any of my ramblings I hope it worked out for you. I can’t wait for their next release.

    Won’t Want For Love - https://youtu.be/czbVGdkgvpA

  2. Their most recent album released in released in 2018 sees something of a departure from the tried and trusted Decemberists sound.

    But before we get to that let me gush about the first song. When a band you really like releases a new album there is always the nagging thought of “what if they’ve lost it” going on in the back of your mind. So track one, side one is always important, it’s a place to make a statement about what you’re about. Bowie’s “Speed Of Life”, The Clash’s “London Calling”, Bob Marley’s “Natural Mystic”, Iggy’s “Search & Destroy”, they’re all track one, side one, they all tell you something about what is to come. With “Once In My Life” The Decemberists allay any fears I might have had. It fades in very slowly revealing a wonderful acoustic guitar sound and continues with, unusually for Colin Meloy, very few lyrics, a driving chorused bass line (not unlike something the Cocteau Twins might conjure) and sits inside a keening melody that sets a bar for “I’ll Be Your Girl”. 

    From there we take something of a turn down a road less travelled especially by our Prog-Folk heroes here. A number of the songs now take on an influence from 80’s synth-pop (think more New Order and Depeche Mode and less Erasure OK ?) and even Glam Rock ! Production duties on this album were passed to John Congleton (St Vincent, Lana del Rey) who definitely accentuated Jennie Conlee’s synthesizers.

    Second song up “Cutting Stone” puts all these new sounds together. The subject is as folky as it gets, the protagonist owns a stone that will cut anything, even itself, and he tells us about its exploits. This is set against that chorused bass again, synthesisers and sequencers. The other songs that demonstrate these 80’s influences most overtly are “Severed” and “Your Ghost” which continue in a similar  vein.

    “Everything Is Awful” introduces us to side 2 and ABBA would have been proud of this vocal arrangement. It’s a pretty lightweight children’s song about serious matters with added Punk rock guitars, singalong bits and a sly wink. “We All Die Young”  comes on all Glitter Band glam with thumping drums, Status Quo guitars and childrens backing vocals. “Suckers Prayer” is a slice of prime Americana and there are still the tried and trusted folk influences particularly on “Tripping Along”. 

    “I’ll Be Your Girl” comes to an end on “Rusalka, Rusalka / The Wild Rushes,” (yes I know there’s another song after it but humour me) an 8 minute song suite based on a Slavic legend of a Mermaid who entices men into a seductive trap only to trick them into drowning. Hang on didn’t you say this album was their synth-pop record and now we’re onto mythic mermaids and drowning, we’ve been here before haven’t we ? Well yes and as much as I have enjoyed the last three albums and their more Americana rooted sound it’s great to again reach for the dictionary for liminal (a transitional stage of a process) and hear that folk-Prog again. It seems a leopard never truly changes its spots.

    Colin Meloy has said that the album adresses the sense of despair and absurdity many in America were feeling after the 2016 election (you know, the one won by the clown with the fake tan and tiny hands) and some of the jaunty tunes in here do come tied to some angsty lyrics. In contemporary reviews “I’ll Be Your Girl” was criticised for being less focussed than earlier albums. At times it felt like there was a line from the reviewers that they didn’t like the change in style and the band should get back to their earlier Folk-Prog incarnation. But if a band doesn’t evolve it gets boring, I’m sure if they’d made 3 more albums in their earlier style the reviewers would be accusing them of just that, and as songwriters mature and their lives change then it’s inevitable the things they write about will mature and change. It’s by no measure their best album but it really doesn’t deserve the criticism’s it gathered at the time. I’m very much looking forward to whatever comes next.

     Once In My Life - https://youtu.be/bHFbaF9_kpI

  3. If you’ve listened to any of the videos attached to these scribblings about The Decemberists you will no doubt have realised that Colin Meloy has a very distinctive voice, it’s one you instantly recognise. So there I was one day wandering around Home Bargains in Telford when a song started playing on the in store PA system, nice guitar intro and as soon as the singer opened his mouth I knew it was Colin Meloy. I didn’t know the song so…does this mean they have a new album out ? And that is how I discovered that The Decemberists were about to release “What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World”…thanx Home Bargains !

    On this, their 7th studio album, The Decemberists play a musical game very similar to “The King Is Dead”. The folk element is definitely American and Colin Meloy is hiding less and less behind palanquin’s, Trillium and Spartan Queen’s and showing more of himself. The albums title is lifted from the lyrics of the song “12/17/12”, that being the date of President Obama’s speech following the Sandy Hook school shooting three days earlier (my 50th birthday). The longer story songs are again not here but in places a sense of humour is on display.

    That sense of humour is no more obvious than on opening song "The Singer Addresses His Audience”, a song addressed to some of their more enthusiastic fans who it seems were not so happy about the bands recent raised profile and subtle change in sound. The lyric “We're aware that you cut your hair, In the style that our drummer wore…In the video” explains a lot about the “Audience” in question.

    Songs like “Cavalry Captain”, “Philomena” and “Better Not Wake The Baby” hark back to an earlier Decemberists while others including the utterly beautiful “Lake Song”, “Mistral” and “12/17/12” see Meloy telling us about his situation now and how he struggles with his personal happiness while out in the world bad things are happening. “WATW,WABW”’s highlight for me is undoubtedly that song I heard in Home Bargains, “Make You Better”. It’s one of those songs that from first hearing you know is going to be sticking with you for a long time , it’s fabulous musically, lyrically (“But we're not so starry-eyed anymore, Like the perfect paramour you were in your letters”) and the video is one of the funniest things I’d seen in a long time (make you butter FFS !). It’s inadvertently made me a better guitar player too. I figured out how to play a version of it but then forced myself to learn it as Colin Meloy plays it. It’s not just a great Decemberists song it’s a great, great song period.

    As on “The King Is Dead” there is a shedding of some of the wordier elements of Colin Meloy’s songwriting. Where previously he’d have told us about “15 lithesome maidens” he’s now more likely to tell us about those girls over there. This doesn’t mean The Decemberists as an educational resource are gone, oh no, we still reached for the dictionary for sibylline (prophetic or mysterious), eidolon (a spirit-image of a living or dead person) and Vanagon (In the US the VW Transporter T3 was known as the Vanagon). But Colin Meloy is now a married man with children and doesn’t need the myths and the expansive language so much, he has things to say about his life.

    The reason I like The Decemberists is because of Colin Meloy’s voice and way with words, the bands understated folky precision. Even though on this album some of the excesses of previous records are being pruned out the overall sound of The Decemberists is still very much here. And I like it…

    Make You Better - https://youtu.be/Yb8oUbMrydk