The Crane Wife
Articulating what a masterpiece The Decemberists’ major label debut, The Crane Wife, is leaves me rather speechless. An ambitious, loosely conceptual album based on an old Japanese folk tale of the same title, that is essentially about a poor man who marries a magical bird whose silk spinning makes him rich, the band’s follow-up to the attention-wielding Picaresque is not only one of the best albums of this past year, but is an album to be re-examined again and again.
Frontman and lyricist Colin Meloy, as we all know by now, was in college studying creative writing (his older sister is a novelist) when inspiration to throw himself headfirst into music struck. As such, it is no surprise that his words read not as lyrics, but as well-educated verses littered with literary allusions and Scrabble-winning words. On The Crane Wife, Meloy slips in a good number of political opinion as well, with many of the song’s themes centering around war.
“A terrible autonomy/ Has grafted on to you and me/ Our trust put in the government/ They told their lies as heaven-sent/ ’til the war came…/ And the war came with a curse and a caterwaul/ And the war came with all the poise of a cannonball/ And they’re picking out our eyes by coal and candlelight…” –from “When the War Came.”
Ten tracks are sandwiched in between the two bookends of the album, “The Island” and “The Crane Wife.” Both songs run over 11 minutes in length and flow in epic changes of melody and pace. Progressive rock meets Led Zeppelin meets The Smiths meets 10,000 Maniacs; this is the best way I can describe this album’s sound to someone who’s never heard The Decemberists.
All the hype you’ve heard about this band is correct.
The Decemberists: www.decemberists.com