The revolution may now be televised, but that doesn’t mean it always warrants listeners. While their popularity may have skyrocketed following two concept albums, the Decemberists’ unfortunately consistent formula begets monotony over time, as is the case with new EP, Long Live the King.
In a word, Long Live the King is tedious, especially for an EP. Of course, this may not always be a bad thing — the audience certainly gets its money’s worth, which appropriately runs the length of a shorter album and may go down as a companion piece to The King is Dead, a la Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy Appendix.
In that vein, Long Live the King may indeed be a success, though as a whole it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi — or perhaps je sais exactement quoi. Fully present are the typical Decemberists tropes: Meaningful (with a capital M) and allusive lyrics, folksy melodies, Colin Meloy’s
barely tolerable distinctive voice and an admittedly cohesive sound overall.
Indeed, the Decemberists still sound objectively competent, skilled even, but their latest offering(s) have moved past the threshold of interest into the frontiers of boredom. Long Live the King is truly a chore to get through, precisely due to this consistency.
Curiously, the band has gone for a more country–style vibe here, which is punctuated by various twangs and, on occasion, vocal aberrations consistent with country music, especially the occasional warbling of some phrases. Indeed, one of the EP’s strongest tracks, a jaunty, jumpy demo reminiscent of the Picaresque–era entitled “I 4 U & U 4 ME,” is marred by Meloy’s grubby attempt to stand out at the CMAs. Lyrically, “I 4 U” stands out as relatively light and airy, contrary to the stuffy lit–seminar lyrics that categorize the rest of the Decemberists’ catalogue, particularly this effort.
However, Long Live the King may experience redemption through its last track, “Sonnet,” which is, again, straight out of one of the earlier albums, complete with an inspiring horn section and slightly less obtuse lyrics, though much more intricate than “I 4 U.”
Perhaps I dislike the album because it doesn’t pander to me enough — “Sonnet” is the only track I would ever consider purchasing, and it is the easiest to access; or perhaps I’m just too dense to get every literary allusion. That said, Decemberists fans will probably enjoy the EP; I just find my own true love for them lost, perhaps at sea. We all grow up.
The Decemberists Long Live the King 2/5 Stars Sounds Like: A more well–read, country version of Okkervil River 99–Cent Download: “Sonnet” Good For: English Lit Majors and high school angst.