The Decemberists: Long Live the King EP (Capitol) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, March 29th, 2020  

The Decemberists

Long Live the King EP

Capitol

Nov 23, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The Decemberists' last album, The King is Dead, was a deliberately ramshackle affair. Inspired by Peter Buck's mandolin and Gillian Welch's off-key harmonizing, the nasal-voiced, hyper-literate Colin Meloy and his band of merry noisemakers stripped their prog-leaning sound way back to an Americana core. The words were still thesaurus-friendly, if slightly less intimidating, but the music itself went out of its way to sound "rootsy," littered with banjos and steel guitars. It was an awkward transitionMeloy's voice still feels slightly out-of-place in that sonic settingbut the band scored with their earnest homemade charm, backed by a number of tuneful singalongs.

Long Live the King, the collection of leftovers from that album, continues that same stripped-down trajectory with mixed results. The set opens with "E. Watson," a (you guessed it) Civil War murder ballad. Meloy strums earnestly in a minor key, aided only by a gang of off-key female harmonizersit's a stark sound, even by The King is Dead's standard, putting emphasis on Meloy's laborious lyrics ("Bring down the flood/Wash away the blood"). On "Sonnet," Meloy plods and wallows along in his own nasally din, rescued only at the last minute by his band's circus-like charm and a perky, New Orleans-style brass fanfare.

Meloy's supporting players are, as always, in fine form throughout, adding soulful, ear-tickling overdubs that keep the songs from drifting away into pretentiousness. Best is "Burying Davy," a thrilling brooder propelled by Jenny Conlee's Wurlitzer organ workout and Chris Funk's effects-pedal madness. "Mother wept no te-years," Meloy hilariously chirps. The real passion's in the playing. (www.decemberists.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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