The Decemberists - The King is Dead

by Dan Clay Rating:9 Release Date:2011-01-17

Despite The National's best efforts at doing so, it appears Colin Meloy has actually made the next best R.E.M. album R.E.M. couldn't. Taking a huge influence from Stipe, Buck, Mills and Berry's craft on Reckoning, Meloy has not just worn his musical heart on his sleeve; he's made a whole new shirt just for the occasion. Sensible then that he's drafted in Peter Buck to play jangly-guitar on three of the album's best tracks; why go anywhere else? Such is the similarity to the band's early works it's a surprise Stipe himself doesn't make an appearance, or perhaps that would be a little too bizarre.

None of this is a bad thing of course. Many R.E.M. fans have been waiting years to hear more from this productive era in the band's catalogue as Stipe has steered his crew through to successful melancholy (Automatic), back-to-basics rock (Monster and Accelerate) and stalemate (Around the Sun). Here Meloy's Decemberists move beyond the prog-rock of Hazards of Love to bring a country-tinged delight with a nod to The Smiths in the title too.

Opener

provides a gorgeous sweetness with its acoustic strum that Mumford & Sons could never match.

The excellent trend continues with

, Buck joining in again, while the darker 'This is Why We Fight' recalls Automatic for the People's melancholy undertones. "When we die/We will die/With our arms unbound," Meloy sings with certainty.

The day or reckoning may be close then, but with The King Is Dead, Reckoning has had a second coming.

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