The Decemberists – “Sixteen Military Wives” 7”
Rough Trade, 2005
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
“Sixteen Military Wives” is the high water mark of the Decemberists fun factor. They were always fun, with Colin Meloy’s yarns about chimbley sweeps and their penchant for sea shanties and the more morbid aspects of the grimy past, but “Sixteen Military Wives” is just a hoot. And a holler! It’s jaunty and clever and a distillation of everything the Decemberists did best in their prime before Meloy got obsessed with making grandiose concept albums. Where The Crane Wife seems to be considered their masterpiece (is it?), the songs were never as good as they were on Picaresque. It’s not as interconnected as any of their albums, but it works out for the best. The B-side delivers a demo of “From My Own True Love” which along with “Eli, the Barrow Boy” shored up the gloomy sad side of that album and helped tracks like “Sixteen Military Wives” and “The Sporting Life” really pop by contrast. The Decemberists’ most recent LP—The King is Dead—found the group returning to a more song-oriented approach, which was great, but the whimsy had clearly dried up. Which is fine. Bands get older and get tired of doing the same shit album in and album out and while The King is Dead is a fine record, it really pales in comparison to Picaresque. Plus, that video for “Sixteen Military Wives” was just fantastic, wasn’t it?