April 8, 2004

Test Spin: The Decemberists

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The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy introduced me to this EP at their show at Noyes last Sunday as “a new song called ‘The Tain.'” 18 minutes and four short moments of poorly timed audience applause later (in between each of the five parts), the rest of the audience and I stood bewildered as to what just happened. “Whoa,” the guy behind me managed to get out of his mouth, even though his jaw had fallen to the floor, “they just played, like, a whole epic or something.”

Colin still wishes he was from Western Europe, but The Tain introduces a new side to the Decemberists; one completely lacking all things “twee.” Colin brandishes his electric guitar as a weapon, mouth open in glee and self-awe while hammering the chords, as the organ accompanies one hell of a catchy prog-rock hook. The individual parts can seem somewhat disjointed, but they all do their part to follow the many characters of an obscure Celtic mythology, digging deep into the past as the Decemberists are known to do with their music. The story continues as the song slows down and drummer Rachel Blumberg takes the microphone, telling the tale of a widow to a carousel melody. The climax comes near the end of the fifth part, with a chorus of “aaaas” accompanying Colin wailing the words of a woman calming her daughter, as acoustic guitar, keyboard, and organ sing beautifully in unison. And it ends just as it begins, with heavy acoustic plucking and Colin’s couplets resonating through the atmosphere, completing the cycle that is the newest incarnation of the Decemberists’ unique sound.

Archived article by John Penning
Red Letter Daze Staff Writer