The King is Dead
After the ambitious The Hazards of Love, the Decemberists’ sixth studio album was a much more straightforward effort, with a succinct ten tracks and forty minutes of running time. After sounding primarily British for most of their career, The King Is Dead is steeped in American tradition.
R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and the duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings all guest, and these collaborators are a good indication of the sound of the resulting album; The King Is Dead is reminiscent of R.E.M.’s melodic, low-key albums from the 1980’s and of the plaintive Americana of Welch’s solo albums.
There are plenty of great songs – the fun hoe-down of ‘Rox In The Box’, the insistent ‘Down By The Water’, and the low-key, pretty ‘January Hymn’. The only misfit is ‘This Is Why We Fight’ – it’s a good song, but doesn’t fit the pastoral mood of the remainder of the disc.
The King Is Dead is the Decemberists at their least idiosyncratic and least ambitious, but this simply emphasises the pretty melodies and hooks that have always been present in their music.