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The Decemberists - The Crane Wife CD (album) cover

THE CRANE WIFE

The Decemberists

 

Prog Folk

3.97 | 123 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

russellk
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Look, you know when you listen to a THE DECEMBERISTS album things are not going to turn out well for the subjects of the songs. Men will be betrayed by their friends and their country, women will be abused and murdered, wars and rumours of wars will abound, and even the supernatural is not safe, all set to the sounds of sophisticated folk/indie rock. There'll be shooting, stabbing, kidnappings, graves and laments, with each vignette set in some historical fantasy world equally as brutal as our own.

Well, 'The Crane Wife' has all this. Are you surprised? But what will surprise you is the depth and maturity of the music. This is light-years ahead of their previous work. From the danceable AOR of 'The Perfect Crime #2' - don't overexpose yourself to this track, the chorus will get on your nerves - to the progressive epics of 'The Island' and the three title tracks, there simply isn't a weak moment. With this album THE DECEMBERISTS have crossed a boundary. They are no longer indie-folk, they are squarely prog rock artists. And, to my intense delight, COLIN MELOY finally employs his band to do more than provide him backing. This is music to savour even if you don't quite 'get' the lyrics.

But - oh joy! - 'getting' the lyrics adds so much to the music. Yes, you can have excellent instrumental prog - and, as YES demonstrated, lyrics don't have to mean anything to add to the music. But when they tell stories like these, as intense as these, the musical enhancement is compelling.

Let's start with the epics. 'The Island: Come and See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll not Feel the Drowning' is a three-parter begins with a splendid melody and doesn't relent. At times displaying a hard edge, it is a sad tale of the abduction and death of a maiden, told from the point of view of the perpetrator. MELOY often does this, and it doesn't get any less disturbing. 'The Crane Wife' also comes in three parts. Of course, MELOY being MELOY, part 3, the story's conclusion, comes first, just to let you know there'll be no happy ending. Parts 1 and 2 are combined, a slow burner that builds the tension right to the end.

My copy has a few bonus tracks including a third long track, a version of 'The Perfect Crime' that segues into an extended jammy number called - this is THE DECEMBERISTS, remember - 'The Day I Knew You'd Not Come Back.' This track lays down a steady beat over which the musicians improvise, and JENNY CONLEE gets to show off her Hammond.

The shorter tracks are all superb. From the sparse guitar and voice of the poignant and menacing 'Shankhill Butchers' to the gentle, sophisticated pop of 'Summersong' and 'O Valencia', THE DECEMBERISTS never miss a beat. Nothing sounding remotely like filler, the songs' arrangements sufficiently distinct to give each song its own character. And MELOY has moderated his nasal twang a little.

Melodic with a twist, 'The Crane Wife' is a welcome addition to the progressive rock fold. If you like your music clever, thought-provoking and a little morose, with more than a helping of progressive sound, this album is for you. Utterly compelling.

russellk | 5/5 |

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