The King Is Dead

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Two years ago The Decemberists released The Hazards Of Love, a 17 track concept album which at the very least had an edge, a kind of attitude which proved that the band weren't one trick ponies and the critics were seemingly surprised and divided by it's content (see here and here). 2 years later, The King Is Dead opens with a pleasant bit of guitar and harmonica and then quickly turns into 90s style stadium filling airbrushed country rock, luckily this theme doesn't run through the whole album but it ain't a good start. In fact, the album covers many folk sub-genres which might be a good thing in theory but the results here are remarkably dull (see "January Hymn" and "June Hymn" as prime examples). "All Arise!" livens things up a notch and could easily be play-listed on a commercial country radio station in the States but the whole feel of this record is like The Pogues without the danger or Kirsty McColl without the lyrical depth. There are a few redeeming features though; "Calamity Song" and "Down By The Water" sound a bit like Out Of Time era REM (both coincidentally feature REM's Peter Buck and the latter is the albums highlight by a country mile) and the annoyingly titled "Rox On The Box" has a nice bit of accordion on it. After this comes another album lowlight though, "This Is Why We Fight" more or less perfectly defines the word "generic", I'd expect to hear it in the background of an awful teen drama whilst a beautiful robot locks herself in her bedroom and cries because her latest flame has acted like a "jerk". Finally, "Dear Avery" sends the album out on an adequate whimper and a feeling of annoyance that The Decemberists have seemingly settled for the middle ground.