The Decemberists
Her Majesty the Decemberists


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sepstrup USER (20 Reviews)
December 19th, 2005 | 22 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist


Ah, The Decemberists. What a quirky, but wonderfully innovative indie band. Their music is deeply rooted in story telling; tales of the sea, of love, of war, of anything really. In fact, one of their EP’s, The Tain, is based on an old Celtic tale of the same name. You could argue that they are old-fashioned, but the stories they tell are relevant to day, and The Decemberists have more to say than most bands around these days. Just look at their name. ”Why?”, you may ask. Let me explain:

December 1825. Up until this point, the autocratic government of modern Russia had met no resistance from its people. Influenced by the liberal ideas of the Western World, a group formed a conspiracy against Czar Nicholas I, the ruler at the time, fighting for freedom and democracy. While the uprising was a total disaster (3.000 arrests, five of whom were hung, more than 230 were exiled), it started a wave of revolutionary activity. The conspirators were named The Decembrists, a name this band took upon themselves.

They tell old stories, sure, but they are still interesting, and relevant to society today. Their lyrics are definitely one of their best features, because they tell intricate stories that makes them seem different from any other band out there. Even Neutral Milk Hotel and Belle & Sebastian, with whom they are often compared. They are sources of inspiration sure, but The Decemberists is still a unique band. They mix a traditional indie style with a greater range of instrumentation, the instantly recognizable voice of Colin Meloy, and the epic narrative, rather than lyrical approach to songwriting (Not in every song, but their narrative writing-style is very characteristic) They are very consistent in making quality recordings, making it hard to pick their most important album, out of the three they’ve made. This might be the most experimental and least accessible album, but that’s debatable. It is a very diverse album, more so than their debut Castaways & Cutouts, which featured mostly acoustic, folk-indie songs. This album is more dramatic and perhaps too ‘out there’ for some people.

It starts off with “Shanty for the Arethusa”, a fantastic opening song. It is one of the best songs on the album, and one of The Decemberists’ best altogether. True to their theatrical style, this is a taleabout a pirates. Colin Meloy sings ”Tell your daughters do not walk the streets alone tonight” convincingly, in what might be their most dramatic song yet. A true highlight of the album, and also one of the longest songs. In fact, the three longest songs are the three best, but they are very different from one another. Especially the dramatic epic ”Shanty for the Arethusa” and the stripped-down ballad”I Was Meant for the Stage”, in which he fittingly tells about being out there on stage, exposed. It suits the lack of much instrumentation very well. Also the song is almost devoid of complex imagery and metaphors. It is simple, and therein lies its greatness: (Mother please be proud / Father be forgiving / Even though you told me, ‘Son you’ll never make a living’ “). It works well. The third highlight is track four, the longest song on the album. It’s difficult to explain. The verse is rather mellow, changing into a powerful chorus, which provides a nice contrast.

But other than these songs, there are many other great ones. ”Soldiering Life” is a simple, but effective song, with the excellent line: (And you / my brother in arms / I’d rather I’d lose my limbs / than let you come to harm). ”Red Right Ankle” is a warm song, with some very interesting imagery. ”Los Angeles, I’m Yours” combines happy music and the warm title with contrasting lyrics. Full of powerful poetic lines, my favourite has to be: (An ocean’s garbled vomit on the shore / Los Angeles I’m yours.), which clearly shows the contrast I was talking about.

In fact, there are no actual missteps on the album, but a few slightly weaker tracks, such as ”Billy Liar”, and the album closer: ”As I Rise” a folk-indie song, which is not a very powerful closer (though by no means a bad song), as ”I Was Meant for the Stage” would have been. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic album. They try out a lot of new things, which they seem to tone down on their following album, which simultaneously add and detract from its quality. The highlights are better than on most of their other releases, but it’s arguably a little less consistent. This gets 4/5.



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user ratings (238)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sepstrup
December 19th 2005


1564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Please tell me what you think, and vote

masada
December 19th 2005


2733 Comments


Good review.

I've been wanting to get into this band for a long while, but I never have the money to pick up their albums, which run for about $16 or $17 at the FYE here. I would have to disagree with the statement saying that they are "utterly strange", though.

Sepstrup
December 19th 2005


1564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hmm... Might be an overstatement now that I think about it... Well if you decide to buy one, you can't really go wrong. They haven't made anything bad.This Message Edited On 12.19.05

masada
December 19th 2005


2733 Comments


I don't think this was released this September, either. :pThis Message Edited On 12.19.05

Sepstrup
December 19th 2005


1564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I fixed it, but it only shows the year now, doesn't seem to be any way to fix that... Well it's the 9th of September 2003.

Thanks for noticing

pulseczar
December 19th 2005


2385 Comments


Albums released before 2005 only show year.

Good review, I wanna check this band out sometime

Sepstrup
December 19th 2005


1564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That's odd, but thanks for explaining it anyway

And do check them out. They're the band I've listened to the most lately, and this is the album I've listened to the most (I have all of their albums). Start anywhere, though. They're all great

Two-Headed Boy
December 19th 2005


4527 Comments


i wanted to buy this, but i had no money.


How do you do that quote thingy?

Jawaharal
December 19th 2005


1832 Comments


you do
(Quote)text goes here(/Quote)
use brackets instead of paranthesses

Zebra
Moderator
December 19th 2005


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I think that this is the Decemberists worst album.

After the first four songs the album slowly gets worse.

Nice review.

Sepstrup
December 24th 2005


1564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I disagree (Soldiering Life, Red Right Ankle and especially I Was Meant For The Stage are great songs).

In the spirit of being more moderate with my rating, I gave this 4/5 instead, though, following the Rolling Stones scale. This Message Edited On 02.07.06

Morvit
March 17th 2006


71 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Compared to the Decemberists' other albums and EPs, I would say this is their worst release. If you're looking into the Decemberists, i recommend starting with Castaways and Cutouts, probably their most accessible album.

AbysmalFace
April 4th 2006


35 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[Quote=Sepstrup]I disagree (Soldiering Life, Red Right Ankle and especially I Was Meant For The Stage are great songs).[/Quote]

Red Right Ankle is a great great song; Bachelor and the Bride takes it for me though. Not their best full-length, but, if you're choosing between this and $10 Betty on the corner, this is definitely worth shelling out for.

Bron-Yr-Aur
May 1st 2007


4405 Comments


Billy Liar and Los Angeles, I'm Yours are both fantastic.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
May 1st 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This CD is underrated in their collection. to be serious, all of their records are fantastic.

Bron-Yr-Aur
May 2nd 2007


4405 Comments


The only two I've heard completely are the Crane Wife, which rules, and Picaresque, which is utter crap sprinkled with moments of godliness every now and again.

citizeninsane
February 15th 2008


131 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

best song on here. "Red right ankle"

"the gymnast" come vastly close though

Motiv3
March 27th 2010


8945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

i second is it luck.

thatoneguy726
June 18th 2011


1637 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Aw man, apparently older = less attention on Sputnik

thatoneguy726
September 28th 2011


1637 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah! not quite up to par with the next few albums, but still awesome



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