The Decemberists, or Proof that I can Change my Mind

Once things find themselves on my Do Not Want list, they tend to languish there for eternity.  They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and that usually holds true in my world.  Occasionally, however, I am forced to admit that I was wrong about something and reconsider.

When I first heard the Decemberists, my brain screamed in agony at the sound of Colin Meloy’s voice.  It reeked of hipster irony; nasal and grating and rife with odd pronunciations and almost comedic vibrato.  Whenever a Decemberists song came up on Merrill’s iPod, I must have made such a face that she started to automatically skip their tracks.  An odd thing happened, however, I started to become attached enough to the lyrics that Meloy’s voice no longer offended.

Songs by the Decemberists tend to be lyrically dense and involve olde-tyme settings, characters and scenarios.  In “We Both go Down Together,” we are presented with the classic Romantic situation of a high-born lad’s love for a low class lass of which his parents never approve.

You come from parents wanton
A childhood rough and rotten
I come from wealth and beauty
Untouched by work or duty

I was intrigued enough to give the band another chance, and once I listened to Yankee Bayonet (I Will be Home Then) I was hooked.  Give me an American Civil War weeper about a dead soldier and his pregnant wife and you’ve set the hook.  Yankee Bayonet reminds me of Sullivan Ballou’s letter home on the eve of the First Battle of Bull Run, a battle that would ultimately claim his life.  Reading Ballou’s letter makes the room get all dusty every damn time.  If you can connect Sullivan Ballou to contemporary songwriting, then you’ve got a fan in me.

~ by schlippo on January 22, 2014.

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