Sunday, January 9th, 2011
"Begin The Begin"
The Decemberists cover R.E.M.
Frank YangWhen you’re an artist who’s been around for a certain amount of time, the phrase “return to form” will begin creeping into descriptions of new works more and more as time goes on. It’s inevitable, whether or not past forms actually need to be returned to or not, and said phrase has been getting bandied about lately in reference to a couple of high-profile releases coming out soon
In the case of R.E.M., who’ve now been at it for over three decades and are set to release album number fifteen in Collapse Into Now on March 8, it’s an acknowledgement that some of their recent output has been patchy and hopefully confirms that this latest effort builds on the positive response their last “return to form”, 2008’s Accelerate.
For the eight year-old Decemberists, it’s less a comment on any clear missteps over their six studio albums and more a reference to the fact that The King Is Dead, due out next Tuesday, has got more of that folky vibe that was at the forefront of their first couple albums or maybe that it’s simply not a rock opera like its predecessor The Hazards Of Love.
It also features some guest guitarwork from R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, who joined the band onstage at Radio City Music Hall in New York on June 10 of 2009 for a cover of his own band’s “Begin The Begin”, the lead track from their 1986 classic Life’s Rich Pageant. Colin Meloy actually does a pretty good Stipe growl overtop a fairly straight cover, but hey – when you’ve got the guy who wrote the tune guesting, you don’t put your “reinterpretation” hat on. You just do it.
The Decemberists are at The Sound Academy on February 1. It is unlikely Peter Buck will join them.