A Distinct Country Twang
This is the new single from US band The Decemberists, taken from their second album 'The Crane Wife', their first record since signing with major label Capitol. The single is accompanied by an impressive video telling the story of front man Colin Meloy running off with his boss' daughter and hiding out at the Valencia hotel.
The Decemberists are not new to story telling and Meloy revels in making music based on elaborate folk stories. 'The Crane Wife' is a concept album based on a Japanese children's folk tale that Meloy came across in a bookstore several years ago.
'O Valencia' sounds like an upbeat, lively song with jangly acoustic guitar and a solid, driving beat. The melancholy lyrics provide a stark contrast, however, as the girl's sister gives the couple's secret location away and Meloy's lover is tragically killed and he plots to "burn this whole city down". There are no frills to the modern day Romeo and Juliet, however, and the compelling narrative lyric is almost lost against such cheerful - and dare I say bland - instrumentation. Lively music and miserable lyrics worked for Morrisey but 'O Valencia' just doesn't have the desired effect.
The third track on the single, however, 'Culling of the Fold', does nothing to disguise its gruesome theme with bold clashing piano chords and a scraping violin, and it's all the better for it. With a tango style dance rhythm, the brash lyrics, "You've got to cut him up boy" and sinister sneer in Meloy's voice, the song really fits with the band's quirky, old fashioned image and fulfils the albums themes of death, war, greed and murder.
The middle song 'After The Bombs' sounds like a country ballad with heartfelt vocals, a steel guitar and a soulful organ solo. As a newcomer to The Decemberists, this tune made me wonder where their roots really lie, as their reputation as an Indie band just doesn't ring true with these three tunes. From the folk inspired artwork on the cd, the country influences that run through the tunes and the colourful narrative in the lyrics, the Decemberists stand out from the common Indie trend in today's charts. However, the single sounds so mainstream that the other great tracks might not get a listen.