Review Summary: It's not just the king that's lifeless
The Decemberists' last album The Hazards of Love
was just another step down the path that the band had seemingly been walking down since their inception. Sure, for those not paying attention the hints of Black Sabbath influence was a bit alarming, but for those of us that remember their The Tain
EP it was not only familiar, but encouraging. Sure, Colin Meloy and his compatriots have always been a folk band at heart, but it was their never being afraid to experiment and grow, be it the aforementioned classic metal intensity or the proggish grandiosity of The Crane Wife
, that drove the band from bookish Neutral Milk Hotel clones to being one of the premier indie acts of the last decade.
Unfortunately, with The Decemberists' latest release, The King Is Dead
, the band are content with resting on their laurels. The end result is a tepid, lifeless album devoid of everything that we've come to expect from them in this part of their career, leaving only the most traditional aspects of their sound intact. That's not to say that idea itself of going back to basics was The King is Dead
's downfall, but it certainly didn't help, for without anything to hide behind it becomes painfully apparent that Meloy's concept is uninteresting and bland, making the album a chore to get through if you are following closely and nothing more than background music if you aren't. Even guest spots by famed REM guitarist Peter Buck and the return of vocalist Gillian Welch in “Down By The Water” do little if anything at all to elevate the album beyond a jangly waste of forty minutes. It's truly a shame, because deep down this could have been a great album, but by introducing self-imposed austerity measures to their music The King Is Dead
is painfully homogeneous and bland.
Hopefully this is just a bump in the road in The Decemberists' career, but for the time being it really makes me wonder if behind the lofty sheen, high concepts, and dense sounds of past Decemberists albums has Colin Meloy always been this empty? It's an uncomfortable thought to say the least, but if the Decemberists continue like this it won't just be the king that will be dead.