The King Is DeadAlbum | The Decemberists By Stewart Mason
Colin Meloy leaves the epics behind.
Despite the presence of alt-country siren Gillian Welch on several tracks and healthy doses of pedal steel and fiddle throughout, early reports that The King Is Dead is The Decemberists' "country album" were hugely overstated. Singer-songwriter Colin Meloy and company have stepped away from the UK prog-folk that's fascinated them ever since The Tain back in 2004, although the spirited "Rox in the Box" quotes the folk standard "Raggle-Taggle Gypsies" in its instrumental break. But rather than pick up a new set of influences, they've simply returned to their earlier loves: Neil Young in Harvest mode, The Smiths' gentler side and--especially--IRS Records-era R.E.M., whose Peter Buck adds his trademark jangle to three songs. At times, the unabashed hero worship is so gleefully blatant that accusations of derivativeness are simply beside the point: "Calamity Song" sounds like every song on side one of Murmur played on top of each other, complete with Buck all but plagiarizing his opening lick of "Talk About The Passion." But for the most part, the comparisons to Meloy's teenage icons are well-earned. First single "Down By The Water" is a self-assured folk-rocker that's arguably the most tuneful and direct song the band have yet recorded, while the atypically sultry "All Arise!" and the anthemic "This Is Why We Fight" benefit from the album's stripped-down, intimate sound. Far from a retreat, The King Is Dead might be The Decemberists' Automatic For The People.
|The King Is Dead (trailer)|