The Crane Wife

The Decemberists

2006: Capitol Records CDP 0946 3 53984 2 7

  1. The Crane Wife 3
  2. The Island
    Come and See
    The Landlord’s Duaghter
    You’ll Not Feel the Drowning
  3. Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)
  4. O Valencia!
  5. The Perfect Crime #2
  6. When the War Came
  7. Shankill Butchers
  8. Summersong
  9. The Crane Wife 1 & 2
  10. Sons & Daughters

Is it great? Nah…way too contrived, too derivative, and there’s the issue of those accents of quite dubious origin. Is it good? Oh yeah…downright lovely at times, really really lovely. I guess it comes down to the question of how much counterfeiting you can stomach compared to the payoff. There’s a lot of “borrowed” style here—my first thought on hearing “The Island” was “wow…good thing for the Decemberists that Wings didn’t copyright their sound…—as well as of lyrical matter (leaving the whole Crane Wife tale aside, it occurred to me that “The Perfect Crime” might well refer to that of plagiarism, with Kate Bush’s “There Goes a Tenner” all too obviously in mind).

But oh, OH! is it fun to listen to, if you can distance yourself from its questionable provenance and various online hypes/detractions. “The Landlord’s Daughter,” “When the War Came,” “The Island,” and “Sons & Daughters” are the ones I enjoy most (which is not to say they’re good, I just enjoy them)…and in the case of “When the War Came,” if it is indeed about the Siege of Leningrad in World War II, well, hurrah for the Decemberists for commemorating it, because I don’t know of any other non-Soviet song tribute to it (and it certainly deserves several), even if this one isn’t exactly a flattering memorial to the ordeal (as it rather deals with a scientific purism which looked to the big picture while failing short-term needs of terrible consequence).

As for “Sons and Daughters,” which is undeniably catchy and optimistic in its “rise up from the bunkers” lyrical gist and melodic lilt, what the hell are lame let’s-rhyme-something-with-X lines like “we’ll fill our mouths with cinnamon” doing there but squandering magnificent opportunities? Oy!!