The Decemberists: Castaways and Cut-outs

Hell, I’m always on the look­out for some good new music. Unfor­tu­nate­ly my search often results in less than good new music. There are far too many bands out there with delu­sions of grandeur, weird gim­micks, and stranger sounds, all of which don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly agree with my con­sti­tu­tion.

Thank­ful­ly, The Decem­berists album Cast­aways and Cut-outs does not fit this bill.

[ini­tial­ize pom­pos­i­ty]

They are from some­where in the Pacif­ic North­west, Wash­ing­ton or Ore­gon, or some­place. Tree­hug­gers. Their sound on the oth­er hand, seems to draw on influ­ences from the world over, merged into a very indie feel. The vocals fo Col­in Meloy gives the band a very Irish sound, he’s got an Irish name too, but he is from Mis­soula, Mon­tana. Some of the song con­tent is also quite rem­i­nis­cent of rel­a­tive­ly cur­rent events in Ire­land. “Leslie Ann Levine” in par­tic­u­lar would fit quite well as a med­i­ta­tion on the rife sub­ject of teenage preg­nan­cy, abor­tion and the Ker­ry babies case.

The songs are quite seedy in con­tent, and cre­ate with­in me a sense that the entire album is a peri­od piece of wharves, docks, and sundry oth­er salty top­ics from a 19th cen­tu­ry sea sto­ry. Pet­ti­coats, camisoles, cast­aways, and men at war, all blend togeth­er to cre­ate a sub­tle and sin­is­ter lyric-scape that is only height­ened by the pep­py music. You enjoy lis­ten­ing to the songs but then when you think about the lyrics you’re, like, whoa!

A Cau­tion­ary Song” is prob­a­bly the best exam­ple of this. Its a song about a moth­er who whores her­self out in order to feed the kids. It rol­licks along though, to a concertina/accordion, in a sea-shan­ty sailor rhythm. You might find yoru­self tap­ping your feet as you hear about how she goes through an entire ship in a night.

and the next time she feeds you col­lard greens
remem­ber what she does when you’re asleep

A nice zinger to end the song, eh? So sor­ry kids.

Their musi­cal abil­i­ties are an amal­gam of coun­try, pop, stan­dard rock, and var­i­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of form [i.e. the shan­ty] through­out the album. It might end on a note of hope, but it is a bit hard to tell, “Cal­i­for­nia One/Youth and Beau­ty Brigade” is the clos­est the Decem­berists seem to get to tru­ly mod­ern cook­ie-cut­ter false unity/alienation, yet the lyrics seem iron­ic, as if join­ing the Youth and Beau­ty Brigade might not be such a good thing. Per­haps this irony is meant to expose the shal­low­ness of the “Youth of a Nation” vs. “Bro­ken Home” dichoto­my that so much crap music today seems to feed off of.

The Decem­berists’ Cast­aways and Cut-outs should def­i­nite­ly be added to any self-respect­ing audiophile’s library.

anoth­er link

[end pom­pos­i­ty]

3 Replies

  • adam is right. the decem­berists are pret­ty darn good. i checked them out after talk­ing to him, and they are very cool. i dig

  • It’s real­ly a great band. Just heard about it, and I’m try­ing to find this album’s lyrics. Do you know where I can find them?
    Thanks.

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