All that divides, in one compelling CD
K. Akers | Vienna, VA USA | 07/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first listen had me intrigued, until I woke up the next morning, about to embark on a 6 hour road trip by myself, and found that images from The Crane Wife had invaded my dreams. Then I became mildly obsessed, listening to the disc five times in a row on a sunny stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Decemberists' fourth ablum defies categorization: its lyrics time-travel from what seems to be ancient Japan to the Civil War to the glory days of gangs and crime, to a perfect day at the beach. The music trips around, as well, invoking The Replacements, Yes, Pearl Jam, and even Mike Oldfield. I was struck repeatedly by the chasms that emerge in the songs - when innocent meets evil in The Island; between North and South (and living and dead) in Yankee Bayonet; between intent and impact in The Crane Wife 2; between what appears on the surface and the danger that lurks beneath in Summersong. The lyrics are old-world, courtly, and Colin Meloy sings them with a flat detachment that lends a chill creepiness ("the weight upon your eyelids | is dimes laid on your eyes"): even on the sunniest song, Meloy gives the impression that he's just stating the facts, as "summer blows away and quietly gets swallowed by a wave" (lah di dah di dah). A truly splendid CD, and one that rewards repeated listening, it's also one that can get under your skin. Be warned - there are dreams ahead."