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The Decemberists

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The Decemberists Always The Bridesmaid: Vol 1 album cover
2.73 | 6 ratings | 3 reviews | 17% 5 stars

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Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Valerie Plame (4:55)
2. O New England (4:19)

Total time: 9:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Colin Meloy / singing, guitar, celeste (2)
- Nate Query / bass (1), electric bass (2)
- Jenny Conlee / accordion (1), Hammon organ, singing
- Chris Funk / banjo (1), guitar, singing
- John Moen / The Drums, percussion, singing
- Victor Nash / trumpet (1), French horn (1)
- Toussaint Perrault / tuba (1)
- The Decemberists Family Choir / singing

Releases information

EP Jealous Butcher JB074 (US)

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
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THE DECEMBERISTS Always The Bridesmaid: Vol 1 ratings distribution

(6 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(17%)
Good, but non-essential (50%)
Collectors/fans only (17%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE DECEMBERISTS Always The Bridesmaid: Vol 1 reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Some time in 2008 the Decemberists realized that the combination of canceling the last half of their world tour (illness in the band) and not having a proper studio release since 2006’s ‘The Crane Wife’ were resulting in a slight downtick of their public exposure. Not a good thing for a group that had just ‘made it’ in terms of commercial success; a major label contract, headlining tour and appearances on the David Letterman and the Colbert Report, and overall generally positive fawning-over by the more chic media outlets.

In response the group set about to put together a series of singles while they recovered from the road and toiled in the studio on their new studio project. The result is ‘Always the Bridesmaid’, a 3-disc series released in the latter half of 2008 and mostly available from on-line outlets like Amazon and iTunes (although Jealous Butcher offers all three as 12” vinyl singles through their website). None of these songs are progressive; in fact, there seems to be a conscious attempt to craft catchy, pop hooks and light, unburdened themes as opposed to some of the work the band has been known for in their studio work that requires rapt attention on the part of the listener, not to mention a yeoman’s working knowledge of obscure literary and historical references.

This first volume is comprised of two songs, “Valerie Plame” and “O New England”. The first came into being as a result of band leader Colin Meloy’s awareness of Ms. Plame’s public exposure in the Bush administration’s CIA spy-leak debacle of 2007. the song isn’t really about her per se, Meloy has just said in interviews that he felt her name rolled off the tongue in a way that it belonged in a song. For the most part I agree, and the toe-tapping tempo and simple rhythm put Plame’s name in the listener’s head where it will stay for several hours after the song is done. Lyrically this one is sort of an extension of “The Bagman's Gambit” from ‘Picaresque’, a convoluted love story involving spies and government agents in secret-keeping and secret-sharing trysts. Not a timeless masterpiece, but I’ll admit the song achieves the band’s goal of keeping me interested in them.

The other half of the record features “O New England”, an easy-to-embrace song despite several geographically-incorrect references to New York, which is not in New England despite confusion to the contrary. Meloy puts out his most convincing Michael Stipe vibe here, which along with a simple and seductive beat and Meloy’s languid acoustic guitar strumming will make anyone but the most dour person tap their toe and smile just a little.

There would be two more of these ‘bridesmaid’ singles to come, and none of them will be remembered ten years from now. But in the context of why they were created I have to say the band did a good job putting them together, and they undoubtedly achieved their goal. This one is the best of the three though, and the only one I will give three stars to. Recommended if you are looking for a mild mood- lift on a dreary day; come to think of it, that’s pretty much what Decemberists music is all about anyway.


Review by The Whistler
2 stars (O! 2.5)

So around 1898, or whenever, the Decemberists were halfway through collecting revenue checks from Crane Wife and creating the cover art for Hazards of Love, and Colin realized that someone had better put SOMETHING out to remind people who the band was between albums. The result? This...experiment, the Always the Bridesmaid singles collection; a very odd kettle of fish to be sure, and not that’s not always a good thing.

As usual, I seem to disagree with the general sentiments regarding my favorite band. Most folks consider the first single (subtitled Valerie Plame) to be the best. Why? Sure, the first side contains “Valerie Plame,” and it’s a cute song. But is it good? It’s not better than “Sixteen Military Wives,” a song with which it has a lot in common both plot-wise (slightly political) and structurally (anthemic pop song with a pocket orchestra, right down to some “Hey Jude”-esque chanting). But as much fun as it is, I don’t get that Decemberists feel from it.

The same can be said for the folksier, east coast insulting B-side “O New England.” Is it pleasant? SURE...and while it is nice to hear Colin ragging on some place that is not my home town for a change (I love the lyrics “O New England, in the face of your empire, I think I’d rather just wait in the car”), is there really anything Decemberists about this song? In a word, not really. If “Plame” was a Decemberists song first and an indie pop song second, “New England” is an indie pop song first and a Decemberists song second.

No, sorry sirs. Despite the generous use of banjos and watery backup vocals that live upon this single’s surface, this is NOT my Decemberists. Enjoyable indie pop? Sure. Artsy, folksy edge? You bet. Could The Shins or Death Cab for Cutie put out the same single? Of course. You can enjoy it. I rarely do.

Review by Epignosis
3 stars For a mere taste of The Decemberists exhibiting their happy, indie-pop sensibilities, this EP is a good bet, but do not expect the progressive folk wonders of The Crane Wife or The Hazards of Love; better yet, do not expect progressive anything. This is fun music with clever arrangements and pleasant acoustic instrumentation. As usual, the melodies are excellent and the lyrics a bit of a focus hog. Using a foot-stomping beat and a catchy melody, the first of the pair, "Valerie Plame," is a delightful song with an exquisite bridge featuring vocal backings in the vein of what one would hear in many ELO songs. "O New England" begins with a simple acoustic guitar pattern and Colin Meloy's unmistakable voice and narrative lyrics. Initially it makes me think of Lindsay Buckingham-led Fleetwood Mac. It isn't one of the band's best, but isn't a bad little tune either. I think- and this is unusual for this particular band- that the backup vocals, even though sparsely used, are the highlight for both songs. All in all, this is a decent EP but nothing to write home to mom about. Properly speaking, it is for fans only, yet the songs themselves are good enough to warrant a slightly higher rating.

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