July 02, 2004

Decemberists "The Tain"

Okay, now, what we've got here is one song in five parts. It's a conceptual piece, something to do with war. Or is it about greed? I'm not sure, really. The theme doesn't seem particularly strong--apparently, 2004 is the year of the vaguely-worded concept albums--but don't let that distract you from the bigger picture--and that's that this is one impressive little jewel. Colin Meloy and his band of merry Decemberists have impressed a lot of people over the last year, and though The Tain is the first experience this writer has had with the Decemberists, it's quite clear what the fuss is about.

With the same kind of earthy, rootsy sound that Neutral Milk Hotel used to invoke, Meloy and company tell this vague story about someone dying in war, and they do it quite well. The fact that this five-section song is placed into one long song makes it a little bit hard to skip around for your favorites, but it makes the record much more interesting. I'm particularly fond of the crunchy Part Two and the chorus (aka the singing waifs) on Part Three. I also really liked Rachel Blumberg's Part Four, too, and it shows that Meloy isn't the only talented songwriter in the band.

Yeah, comparisons have been made to Jeff Mangum, and I can understand why now, because this record recalls In An Aeroplane Over The Sea in only the best of ways. The Tain is a great little record that must be taken as a whole, and though it might not be the particularly best place for a new listener to join the ever-growing Decemberists train, it's still a quite beautiful little experiment.

--Joseph Kyle

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