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The Decemberists - The King Is Dead CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

2.92 | 86 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Well, what to make of an album and a band that have, absolutely intentionally and advertising the fact widely, turned their back on what we would call prog-folk, and gone back to a stripped back sound, with a curious mixture of rock and traditional folk?

I gave The Hazards of Love a five star masterpiece review, and its predecessor album, The Crane Wife, a strong four star review. This is a great band, and, I think, certainly in terms of commercial sales and success, an important band.

So, as previous reviewers, with varying degrees of opprobrium, have pointed out, this is not a prog folk album. It's not in any way a progressive rock album. Does that make it a bad album? Well, of course not.

After giving the CD a spin a few times now, the first thing that strikes me is just how much more accessible and listener friendly both the lyrics and music are. Whilst I love the two previous efforts, it is not going too far to state that they can both be hard work and, at times, very emotionally draining. Meloy has very purposely moved away from this, and, in doing so, has, in fact, emulated many of the classic prog artists of yesteryear. Not every album can be a Thick As A Brick, The Lamb, or Dark Side Of The Moon, and neither should we expect them to be.

Some of the music here is exceptional. Both January Hymn and June Hymn are quite lovely, both understated and rather uplifting in their obvious reflection. The latter has Dylan's influence painted all over it, and is all the better for it. Further, of course, the REM influence is strong, especially given the fact that Peter Buck plays on the album. Down By The Water could appear on any mid period REM album, and, guess what, I like it.The longest track on the album, This Is Why We Fight, takes this influence to a further level. With this, as with much of what happened before, my toes are tapping relentlessly. The album closer, probably the closest they come in terms of texture to the predecessors, Dear Avery, is gorgeous in its simple use of guitars, bass, piano, and vocal harmonies.

It is my honest opinion that, in year's to come, American music fans and critics alike will look upon Colin Meloy with as much respect and affection as they do with the likes of Paul Simon & Bob Dylan now. In fact, with his use of words as tales, there is much of both of these in him.

So, how to rate it? Well, I think it's an excellent album. I would recommend it strongly to music fans who are able to appreciate that there is a world out there not exclusively prog driven. No, this is not an epic tale. No, it bears very little relevance to progressive rock or folk-prog. However, what it is is a mighty fine piece of modern American folk/indie rock from a band who still, musically, play like a virtuoso prog band, i.e. very well.

Four stars. An excellent addition to any music collection.

lazland | 4/5 |


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