The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (Cover Artwork)

The Decemberists

The Decemberists: The Crane WifeThe Crane Wife (2006)
EMI Group

Reviewer Rating: 3
User Rating:

Contributed by: superskabrosuperskabro
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I see the Decemberists as having grown in the same organic fashion as Death Cab for Cutie; both bands started out as no-name indie rock bands and grew, slowly, into indie powerhouses and eventually grew so big that a major label noticed and signed them. Death Cab released Plans on Atlantic in 2005, .
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I see the Decemberists as having grown in the same organic fashion as Death Cab for Cutie; both bands started out as no-name indie rock bands and grew, slowly, into indie powerhouses and eventually grew so big that a major label noticed and signed them. Death Cab released Plans on Atlantic in 2005, and I must say, it was a pretty solid album. It picked up perfectly where Transatlanticism left off. The first major label effort for the Decemberists, The Crane Wife, wasn't quite so successful.

I will admit to being the kind of Decemberists fan who claims that Her Majesty, The Decemberists was the pinnacle of the band's career. Picaresque was a decent album with some awesome songs, but ultimately failed to live up to Her Majesty. The Crane Wife, then, is the next step in the slow decline of Decemberists' album quality.

The album opens decently enough with "The Crane Wife 3," which is the same brand of folksy pop that was featured on their previous albums. It works fairly well. The second track, "The Island: Come & See / The Landlord's Daughter / You'll Not Feel the Drowning", is just as long-winded as the title. It begins ("Come & See") with lame Pink Floyd-esque, keyboard-driven rock, changes ("The Landlord's Daughter") into peppy Mason Williams-ish keyboard-driven rock with wails that are reminiscent of Jack Black and ends ("You'll Not Feel the Drowning"), after 12 minutes, with a soft folk sound that is fit to be on a Decemberists record.

It seems as if Colin Meloy just discovered his dad's record collection and forced his band-mates to incorporate these "new" old sounds into the record. It all sounds very forced.

The first single, "O Valencia!", is decent, but with nowhere near the power of "The Engine Driver" or "Billy Liar." It incorporates the classic Decemberists sound, but built upon and evolved. "O Valencia!" should be the model for the next Decemberists album if Mr. Meloy wants to continue making good records.

The second single, "The Perfect Crime #2," sounds like a lame dance track cast-off from the Clash's Sandinista!. Once again, the Decemberists are just reaching for a new sound via help from the past instead of progressing their own sound naturally.

I may be ripping on these songs quite a bit, but they are good songs -- they're just disappointing considering what the band is capable of. In fact, the album ends with its two best songs: "The Crane Wife 1 & 2" is a perfect example of what the band's new sound should be. The slow buildup from acoustic plucking to organ-driven indie rock is flawlessly executed. It is a perfect Decemberists song. The moving "Sons & Daughters" closes the album with a choir chanting "hear all the bombs fade away." It would be an even better closing track if I knew that a perfect album had preceded it, but oh well.

I only hope that the band's humiliating defeat on "The Colbert Report" has made them do some soul searching about the direction in which they want their sound to go.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
toosoftforpunk (May 27, 2012)

Good concept record. It's no Quadrophenia and it certainly isn't their best but I like what they were trying to do and, overall, they succeeded.

wallofyouth (January 29, 2008)

... and they never saw any reviews from superskabro again

TheMike (January 29, 2008)

I think you're overreacting a bit, thus_spoke_sean. I didn't agree with everything the reviewer said either, but to teach their own.

thus_spoke_sean (January 29, 2008)

uh, yeah, i personally do think it matters if you bought it or downloaded it.

whoa shocker!

i would write something more, but it think at this point, the review, and your ridiculous defensiveness, speaks for itself.

superskabro (January 28, 2008)

A. Yes, I bought this album. B. I know Chris Walla Co-Produced "The Crane Wife" and that he produced "Picaresque" (as well as lots of other legit albums). C. Does it matter if I bought it or downloaded it? The music remains the same, and a quick wikipedia search will reveal the producers of most major albums. D. Get a fucking clue and get off your high horse.

thus_spoke_sean (January 28, 2008)

also, nice job maknig the connection between this band and Death Cab, and then not bothering to mention that Chris Walla produced this. did you even buy this cd? or are you just reviewing something you downloaded?

thus_spoke_sean (January 28, 2008)

Death Cab released Plans on Atlantic in 2005, and I must say, it was a pretty solid album. It picked up perfectly where Transatlanticism left off.

nope, actually it didn't.

Those two albums are so completely different it is not even funny. I like them both, but your statement is incorrect. In a literal sense, Trans end with an acoustic guitar and ben, finishing off a fine rock album. Plans starts right into the elctro pop rock that it feeds off for the majority of its play time.

elephantdwarf (January 28, 2008)

while i agree that Her Majesty, The Decemberists is this bands finest moment, i highly disagree on this album being worse than Picaresque. i couldn't listen to that record more than a couple times, it just seemed vacant compared to earlier work. The Crane Wife is a very good record, and felt like a fresh step for a band that was losing its identity.

88-fingers-tony (January 28, 2008)

this is a fantastic album which happens to be really well written and performed. i dont know how someone couldnt like it. I guess its just the history nerd in me, but something about Colin Meloy's ability to tell a story just gets me everytime.

KurtTGS (January 27, 2008)

This album fucking sucks. It makes me hate this band, even though they do have some good songs here and there. Plus, the type of people in my city that love tis album are fucking lame and listen to Damien Rice. Fuck him too.

superskabro (January 26, 2008)

First of all, thank you cherrycolarain for your defensive words. Second of all, I am a fan of bands progressing their sound from album to album, but only when it is good change. The Clash constantly changed their sound, so did Death Cab for Cutie and Cursive. And (in my opinion) it worked. If the song writing remains solid, the progression of the sound doesn't really matter. The song writing on "Crane Wife" doesn't hold up to the standard set by "Her Majesty" and "Picaresque", and therefore, the musical changes don't hold up. I don't really care what you think about the review. No one else had reviewed the album, so I did. Post your own review. Explain your own damn opinion in 250 words or more.

Archangel (January 26, 2008)

Not only is this review completely unnecessary, but it is completely shitty.

inagreendase (January 26, 2008)

Didn't bother with this album more than a few listens.

cherrycolarain (January 26, 2008)

Why are we ripping on the reviewer? As far as I can gather, he didn't actually insult the band and nonetheless... what is a review if not just an opinion with an explanation? If you truly believe that superskabro's opinion doesn't matter, then why the fuck would ANY review matter? Also just because he likes their older material better doesn't mean he's trying to sound like he's known them from before their major label release, he probably just has, as a lot of us probably have.

Seriously, what the hell? and for the record, I have never heard this band. But when you're gonna argue something at least have point because if not you just sound like a jackass.

Ollywood (January 25, 2008)

Score is for Picaresque. Now that is a phenomenal album.
Haven't spent much time listening to this, however what i have heard has left me unimpressed.

ryne (January 25, 2008)

For you to think that The Decembrists care about your opinions on how they should write music, superskabro, makes this review totally moot.

jacknife737 (January 25, 2008)

Nicholas I is not stoaked.

rubyx (January 25, 2008)

that was the best ep of the colbert report.

steveman (January 25, 2008)

The Island: Come & See / The Landlordâ??s Daughter / Youâ??ll Not Feel the Drowning was one of the single best tracks of 2006.

One of the worst reviews I've read in awhile. GB2 Pitchfork if you want to whine about a band not sounding like their earlier material. We don't care if you knew them before they were big.

The Crane Wife is an amazingly put together piece, with quite a bit of variation, yet nothing seems out of place and each song fits well between the one before and the one after. Lyrically this album is better than anything they have ever released, and musically they have moved on from more simple indie rock to well composed pieces of music, often with large instrumentations that compliment eachother well.

fallingupwards84 (January 25, 2008)

every time i see this bands name i think it says The Descendents and then become immediately disappointed

Piata (January 25, 2008)

This album was terribly bland and monotonous. I agree with the reviewer.

eran_zombis (January 25, 2008)

This album isn't bad, but it's much more consumable and dispensable, and when it's not that, it's prog. Yankee Bayonet is the best song on the album.

red_eye_inc (January 25, 2008)

I think everything that could be said about this album has already been said. Review is completely pointless, especially because the reviewer pussed out and gave it a score in the middle range.

coltonlloyd (January 25, 2008)

This is a terrible review. The album is very good.

TheMike (January 25, 2008)

I really like this album. It was the soundtrack to my summer last year. "The Island" is phenomenal.

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