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The Decemberists - As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again (Album Review)

Thursday, 20 June 2024 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Given that it’s now almost 25 years since The Decemberists began their voyage into highly literate and theatrical indie-rock, a lot of minds have been made up about the band. The twee charm of frontman Colin Meloy's sordid re-envisioning of historical tales grates on some, as does the impeccable nature of the band's music, a stark contrast to their lo-fi contemporaries in the Pacific Northwest indie scene. But, despite being a hipster’s dream, the group have never strayed into self-parody, with their new record ‘As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again’ gamely holding true to their course.

It is one of The Decemberists’ strongest offerings to date, doubling down on all they do best while providing a perfect entry point for the uninitiated. Haters be damned, this is a devilish waltz with death and, equally, a whimsical, maudlin record that’s besotted with the past and the lessons we can learn from it.

On the ‘80s jangle-pop indebted opener Burial Ground there is a heavy sense of the inevitability of what awaits us all. But the looming reaper is kept at bay by the pure joy of hearing Meloy’s voice joined by James Mercer of The Shins.

Long White Veil, meanwhile, offers charming Americana and hooks so potent that it might be considered one of Meloy’s finest melodic moments to date. A somber tale of a woman who passed away (or perhaps something more sinister) on her wedding day, it seems destined to become yet another gang singalong at live shows.

The simple folk of William Fitzwilliam will please the history buffs and have fans scouring books for the breadcrumbs that lead through Tudor England. It also allows an opportunity to experience Meloy’s voice in its rawest form, cutting above hypnotic pools of lap steel. 

A 20 minute concept song about Joan of Arc is just about the most Decemberists thing you could imagine, and that is exactly what they offer up on album closer Joan In The Garden. Yet it is hard to begrudge them this moment of indulgence. Especially when, firstly, it is very good and, secondly, it is so refreshing to have bands continue to offer up disruptions to playlist culture.

As ever with The Decemberists, you can sneer at their earnestness or you can embrace the pomp and ceremony that makes them so unique. It’s often better to be involved in the party than on the outside looking in. 

The Decemberists Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri July 12 2024 - BEND Oregon - Hayden Homes Amphitheater (USA)
Sat July 13 2024 - OAKLAND California - Fox Theater Oakland (USA)
Sun July 14 2024 - LOS ANGELES California - Bellwether (USA)
Mon July 15 2024 - LOS ANGELES California - Bellwether (USA)
Thu July 18 2024 - SAN DIEGO California - Humphreys Concerts By the Bay (USA)
Fri July 19 2024 - TUCSON - Rialto Theatre Tucson (USA)
Sat July 20 2024 - PHOENIX Arizona - Van Buren (USA)
Mon July 22 2024 - SANTA FE New Mexico - Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing (USA)
Tue July 23 2024 - DENVER Colorado - Mission Ballroom (USA)
Wed July 24 2024 - SANDY Utah - Sandy Amphitheater (USA)
Fri July 26 2024 - BONNER Montana - KettleHouse Amphitheater (USA)
Sat July 27 2024 - SPOKANE Washington - Spokane Pavilion (USA)
Mon July 29 2024 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - Queen Elizabeth Theatre (Canada)
Wed July 31 2024 - SEATTLE Washington - Woodland Park Zoo (USA)
Thu August 01 2024 - SEATTLE Washington - Woodland Park Zoo (USA)
Fri August 02 2024 - BELLINGHAM Washington - Mount Baker Theatre (USA)
Sat August 03 2024 - TROUTDALE - McMenamins Historic Edgefield Manor (USA)

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