Wednesday, October 18, 2006

December's Children

I've always been a bit dubious about the Decemberists. Something about Colin Meloy's use of obscure and esoteric language feels flashy just for the sake of flash, and his defense (along the lines of "no one ever questions the type of words used in poetry") does him no favors. It takes a certain kind of person to liken himself a poet, and indeed that pretension - plus loads of whimsy - has kept me from embracing the group even as its acclaim and fame have grown.

And yet. The new album "Crane Wife" is great. Really great. The hooks are sharper, the melodies more moving, the lyrics somehow more sedate in their anachronistic, antiquated glory. Meloy and pals even frontload the disc with a veritable prog epic, a four-part suite that brings to mind Yes or Genesis (and sent me back to the latter's brilliant "Selling England by the Pound" to confirm that it really sounds like a cross between both).

The fact that the album doesn't fizzle out after that early 13-minute departure says a lot of Meloy's newfound focus. Was he aware of the pressures and expectations of a major label debut? Or is he just getting better? Either way, I'm the first in line to eat crow. Honestly, there's nothing more pleasurable to me than reappreciating a band that has disappointed me in the past by way of their superior new material. It happens less frequently than you think.


Post a Comment

<< Home