The Decemberists: Long Live the King

Photo: Autumn DeWilde

A solid and interesting, but ultimately inessential bookend that collects the odds and ends from the band's recording sessions for The King Is Dead.

The Decemberists

Long Live the King

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 2011-11-01
UK Release Date: 2011-11-01

The Decemberists' Long Live the King EP comes along roughly 10 months after its last album, The King Is Dead. As you can surmise from the title, the six songs included here are all outtakes and B-sides from the The King Is Dead recording sessions. This is the sort of release that can be really appealing to a band's biggest fans, the completists who want absolutely everything a group puts out. For everyone else, though, Long Live the King is inessential.

It's not that the music on the EP is bad. Decemberists' frontman Colin Meloy is too strong a songwriter for the band to put out something terrible. Most of the stuff here is pretty good, but none of it is great, and Long Live the King has the effect of confirming that the band made all the right choices when putting together The King Is Dead. The best song here is "Foregone", an easygoing country rocker featuring some really nice pedal steel guitar work from Chris Funk. The track is very much in keeping with the roots-rock vibe the band cultivated on the album proper, but it's still weaker than any of the album's similar mid-tempo tracks.

The EP opens with "E. Watson", a minor-key story song dominated by Meloy's vocals and a simple acoustic guitar accompaniment. The song is classic Decemberists, with a folk song feeling and a story set in the 19th century. Laura Viers and Annalisa Tornfelt add some nice harmonies to the song's second half, but overall it pales in comparison to past Decemberists folky story songs. "Burying Davy" almost feels like a darker retread of "E. Watson". Both songs discuss the burial of an acquaintance, but "E. Watson" has a sense of regret for poor, misguided Edgar, while "Burying Davy" has a tone of nasty inevitably to it. That tone is established not just by Meloy's lyrics, which include "Mother wept no tears / At burying Davy", but also by the arrangement. Jenny Conlee's organ sound has a mournful quality to it, but it's Chris Funk's angry, bluesy distorted guitar solo, which runs in the background through the entire song, that gives the track its nastiness. This makes for an interesting song sonically, but it lacks the melody or strong hook needed to really make it great.

After "Davy", the EP goes completely in the opposite direction with "I 4 U & U 4 Me", a pleasantly rolling rootsy song with the happy refrain, "I'm for you and you were made for me." It's a nice change of pace, but it seems pretty slight, like this was sort of a tossed-off idea that never got completely fleshed out. The fact that the version included here is listed as a "home demo" seems to support that idea. Long Live the King ends with "Sonnet", a sort of hybrid track that opens with 90 seconds of Meloy singing and playing guitar and finishes with 90 seconds of New Orleans-style shuffle featuring a trumpet and trombone playing the song's melody.

The only real misstep on the EP is "Row Jimmy", a Grateful Dead cover that makes six minutes and forty-one seconds feel like two hours. Playing a song by the Dead makes sense for the sort of roots-rock feel the band was going for with these sessions, but the Decemberists are not a jam band. We already knew that, but they make it abundantly clear with this meandering, lifeless cover that sucks all the energy out of the room. Still, as an odds and ends collection, Long Live the King is pretty solid. It gives a more full picture of what kinds of ideas that band was working on for The King Is Dead and at times approaches fascinating. It in no way stands on its own, so this EP is, again, mostly for Decemberists completists.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.