Just Weird Enough: The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy Talks Art + Win A Pair Of Tickets

Decemberists photo

The Decemberists have always been a “weird” band. Dressed in old-time tuxedos, goth gowns, and hair tonic, The Decemberists look like a photo album from the 1800’s. Eeriness hangs over their promo shots like the old family photos in a Hitchcock film.

The Decemberists are not weird in a bizarre manner (like Lady Gaga). They are not weird in an overly artistic manner (like David Bowie). By no means are they beyond weird (like Gary Busey). But they are just weird enough to be the Pixies of the 00’s. And they’ve grown a little tired of it.

“We knew people might have a hard time getting into it,” said principal songwriter Colin Meloy about the old English folk sound of past albums. “Once we were on stage at Bonnaroo or wherever, I just kind of wanted to play some normal songs.”

Their latest effort, The King is Dead, does just that, embodying the alternative of R.E.M. with the anthemic Americana of Tom Petty. The songs stay simple, and they’re better for it.

“It’s a real challenge to make simple music, and a lot of times we hold off and keep more space. This record is an exercise in restraint,” says Meloy.

Their new alt-country sound scores multi-generational appeal, tolerable to Volvo driving soccer moms while staying respectable to indie snooters. The five members stay true to their principles by taking an old sound and modernizing it. The King is Dead will earn new believers while staying loyal to long-time fans.

Now more than ever, the Decemberists have just enough hooks to fit into the indie mainstream in the echelon of Spoon, Death Cab For Cutie, and Modest Mouse. Things are on the straight-and-narrow–only looking up.

“Sometimes I kind of miss the epic-ness of the other albums, but it’s nice to get all the information across in three minutes,” says Meloy. “It’s like going from reading a novel to reading a bunch of short stories.”

If you’ve never given the Decemberists a shot, you’ve probably stopped reading this story already. But for those of you curious enough to give an ear, you’ll find a band in the prime of its career. Come hear their new sound (and check out their antique fashion sense) next Tuesday, April 19 at Overture Hall (get your tickets here). Alt-country favorite Justin Townes Earle will return to town to lend support.

-Brett Newski

WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS: When followed sequentially, songs on the band’s 2009 album The Hazards of Love can be read as a theatrical narrative.  We want to hear your takes on the best and worst “rock operas” of all time.  Name at least one of each in the comments section below and you could win a pair of tickets to see The Decemberists at Overture Hall.

Please have your responses posted by this Sunday, April 17 at 6pm.  A winner will be chosen and notified shortly thereafter.  good luck!

7 Responses

  1. Best: Tie between Jesus Christ Superstar and the Rocky Horror Picture Show – both were high energy, creative, created life-long followers and songs that once heard, one can never get out of their heads….

    Worst: 2003’s Jerry Springer: The Opera, by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas – well, for very obvious reasons – tried to watch and just couldn’t! Subject matter was horrid and so was the music! No one should write a rock opera based on a horrific television show!

  2. Meatloaf – Bat out of Hell II

  3. Best: Hedwig and the Angry Inch because it features a transgender rock star (all the best rock stars smack of transgender anyway) who sings an incredible song based on plato’s Symposium.

    Worst: Spiderman because of Bono and probably The Edge. He isn’t helping anyway.

  4. Worst: tenacious d, pick of destiny.
    it’s just the worst. too much parody, not enough fun.
    Best: hedwig and the angry inch.
    A perfect mix of fun, fantasy, reality, and it still manages not to take itself too seriously.

  5. I’m still a fan of Marillion’s “A Script For a Jester’s Tear” or Planet P Project’s “Pink World”. My least favorite overall concept album is Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.” Don’t get me wrong there are some brilliant songs on the album, but there seems to be a lot of weird filler.

  6. Best: The Who’s Tommy. Not overbearing, interesting and a lot of it is dialogue, like a real opera.

    Worst: The Kinks’ incomprehensible Preservation: Act 1 from the early 70s. Terrible music and a rehash of earlier material in places.

    (Weirdest is probably John Gavanti, a no-wave rock opera).

  7. Best: Drive-by Truckers “Southern Rock Opera” – my introduction to the band and still one of my favorite albums. Just listening to this made me revisit my opinions on Skynyrd and the whole southern rock genre which I’d previously dismissed entirely.

    Honorable Mention: Green Day “American Idiot” – I don’t know how I feel about the whole Broadway play aspect, but I have to admit the 15 year old me would have gotten rid of those ridiculous punk purity beliefs a lot sooner knowing that Green Day could go from Dookie to American Idiot and I’d still love it unabashedly.

    Worst: The Who “Tommy” – maybe I don’t do enough drugs, but I never understood what the hell this was about.

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