Decembrist’s ‘Drifters and Cutouts’ turns 20

Christmas is coming soon. Alexander I died. It happened quickly – a case of typhus while traveling in the south of the country – and now Russia’s power is up for grabs. During the weeks there, no one seemed sure who would succeed the tsar. Alexander’s rightful heir, his brother Konstantin, privately rejected his place in the heirs two years ago because he lives in Warsaw and is married to the Polish noblewoman Joanna Gruzinska. But Constantine’s abdication was not something the public knew. Alexander demanded secrecy.

Not even the second-placed brother, Nikolay Pavlovich, knew that Konstantin had opted out, leading to an absurd and ultimately tragic sequence. Immediately after Alexander’s death in November 1825, Nicholas swore allegiance to Constantine, as did most of the military. Constantine immediately wrote to inform Nicholas that he would not accept the job, so Nicholas succeeded to the throne as Tsar Nicholas I. He was still building a coalition until his official confirmation, when a secretive populist faction moved into action, arranging secret meetings and forging fragile coalitions.

The St. Petersburg-based northern society wants Russia to become a constitutional monarchy, while its counterparts in the more radical southern society in Turchin, Ukraine, seek to overthrow the monarchy entirely and turn Russia into a republic. Still, even for moderate reformers, the temporary uncertainty over who will become tsar seems like an opportunity not to be missed. By early December, officers Nikita Muraviev, Prince Yevgeny Obolensky and Prince Sergei Petrovich Trubetskoy had planned a conspiracy: When they are sworn in the day after the festival, they will gather 3,000 soldiers in Senate Square, announce that they refuse to recognize him as Tsar, call Trubetskoy a “dictator,” arrest members of the royal family, and force senators Recognition of the pro-serf “Manifesto of the Russian People”.

On the morning of December 26 — or December 14 according to the old-fashioned calendar — the rebels rallied, but Trubetskoy’s aides, AI Yakubovich and AM Bulatov, surprised them by refusing to oversee their coup. The uprising was in chaos before it even started. When the first wave of troops appeared in Senate Square, it was already 11 am, and the Senate had confirmed Nicholas as Emperor and left. Trubetskoy decided not to bother to fight a losing battle, but his rebellion continued without him. Tens of thousands of citizens rallied to support the uprising, but the rest of the army supported Nicholas, much to the dismay of northern society. The reformist ranks found themselves surrounded, outnumbered, and deadlocked.

At 3 p.m., the rebels elected Prince Yevgeny Obolensky as their replacement “dictator”, but by then their movement had missed its time. Two hours later, Nicholas lost patience with the negotiations and ordered his army to open fire on the rebels, killing 80 and creating chaos. Numerous arrests ensued, resulting in sentences ranging from capital punishment to prison to exile in Siberia. Nicholas consolidated his power. The so-called Decembrist uprising ended with a bang and a whimper.


In the early 2000s, a similar (but less risky) power vacuum emerged in the historically eccentric indie folk-rock scene.Reacting to the overwhelming success of the Neutral Milk Hotel airplane at sea, Jeff Mangum quietly left his prominence in late 1998 — with no official breakup or retirement announcement, just a retreat into the shadows before anyone realized it was over. As a certain bespectacled singer-songwriter put it, the king is dead. As the next millennium begins, airplane Acquiring its mythical status, many contenders for the NMH throne emerged, many of them with great success. But the first people to enter the arena – before Beirut, the Oakville River and the Arcade Fire and anyone else – were the Decembrists.

Not that Colin Meloy has explicitly set out to emulate the Neutral Milk Hotel. Tarkio, the band he led as an undergraduate at the University of Montana in the late ’90s, practiced the original version of the Decemberists sound, so user-friendly you’d be more likely to mistake it for Jars Of Clay than “Two-Headed” Boy”. In 2000, he moved to Portland and eventually made a silent film with Nate Query and Jenny Conlee, former band members of a now-defunct project Calobo.With the addition of drummer Ezra Holbrook and multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk—who was an unofficial member for the first few years despite his significant contributions—they launched Decemberists: a reference to the failed uprising of the Russian Empire, Choose to evoke “drama and melancholy” the last month of the year. After getting your feet wet 5 songs 2001 EP, first album released castaways and silhouettes 20 years ago this Saturday, via Portland’s own Hush Records.

The Decembrist music has grown considerably over the years, but they emerge with a clearly defined spirit, which their bios succinctly sum up All Music Guides: “A dramatic, highly literary pop song that draws heavily on late 60s British folk acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle and the grandeur of early 80s Waterboys and REM college rock” You’ll notice there’s only one from Athens The band, Georgia listed there, has nothing to do with E6.However, when Killing the Rock Star was re-released castaways and silhouettes 2003 – Accordion, Shed, Ladies and Legionnaires, and (perhaps especially) the opening song about a stillborn girl whose ghost still haunts railings and petticoats 15 years later – some listeners could not Ignoring the echoes of Melloy’s songwriting, Mangum is obsessed with the creepy beauty and horror of the old world.

One was Eric Carr, who as a critic was assigned to write the album for the increasingly influential online magazine Pitchfork Media, who had the power to shape the public’s early understanding of the group. As a freshman in college, what I read on Pitchfork deeply influenced my prejudices, and he certainly influenced my perception of Decembrists.Carl starts his comments like this:

If Jeff Mangum had never been born, Colin Meloy might have taken on Jeff Mangum’s current status as indie rock’s consummate pop songwriter freak. Of course, that means some other ambitious kid from Montana has to be Colin Melloy.The real Melloy, in this Trading places– theme fuzzy areawill fill Mangum’s nasal voice and bring sweet gifts to the world airplane at sea With his band Neutral Milk Hotel, New Guy will face a band called The Decemberists who will shamelessly dig the sans-fuzz of the most acclaimed Elephant 6 band. The Decembrists would be a little more pop, maybe a little sweeter than their main influence, but faced with a voice so close to Mangum that almost no one could tell the difference. Some say it may even have actually happened. Some say it’s happening now.

Note that this tirade begins the review anointing castaways and silhouettes as best new music. Even skeptics can see what Melloy and his band are doing.While Karl isn’t the only one comparing Decembrists to neutral milk hotels, for some, the similarity is something to celebrate outright, like Jesse Jarnow in salonhe loves the album and its 2003 sequel wholeheartedly Her Majesty the Decembrist Almost made him feel like he was cheating airplane:

I immediately had a crush on Melloy and the Decembrists. And the reason I got an instant liking, which was unfair to all parties, was because they were uncanny resemblance to a completely different band: Neutral Milk Hotel. Not that the Decembrists just remind me of Jeff Mangum’s now-defunct outfits – they sound like their tiniest gestures: nasal faux British accents, Tattered marching rhythms, old-world obsessions, songs about dead European girls. That’s forgivable because it doesn’t sound like it was entirely intentional. It also made me more open to their new album. Maybe too much.

Melloy may be comparing herself, but castaways and silhouettes enough to surpass them. From the start, he was a great songwriter, weaving his flawed characters and striking images into tight little tunes.From the beginning, they were great band Likewise, being able to unleash so many emotions and sensations in their unique vocal vocabulary, floating one moment and surging the next. In any case – despite some glaring resemblance to the other band, especially in the way he pushes the nasal treble into the high notes – Melloy is more eccentric than geek, preferring to be the unapologetic nerd Making nerdy folk rock, not psychedelic hallucinations. He has his own business going on.

Among the album’s more upbeat moments (upbeat “Legacy of the Legionnaires,” cheerful “July, July!”) and the most somber (pedal steel serenade “Clementine,” sparkling slow drift” cocoon”). More theatrical impulses emerged from the start, most notably “Song of Warning,” a sparse Eastern European folk stomping of shipyard sex workers. (That one’s a little thick.) The edgy leanings are there too, as heard in the swinging, organ-driven beat switch of “Odalisque”, that moment castaways and silhouettes It’s a real rock and roll. But even though they’ve been performing in old-fashioned costumes, the Decemberists aren’t yet a band that can get an entire festival crowd hunched over as part of some whale-oriented vaudeville show. Overall, their debuts presented a softer, more ambiguous, and more austere aesthetic. Even its 10-minute finale, “California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade,” was far more solemn than the camping epic they later wrote—a prime example of the graceful beauty and stunning whimsy that fascinated me so much at the time.

Among songs like the vivid, poignant snapshot “Grace Cathedral Hill” and the turbulent character study “Here I Dream I’m an Architect” — my personal favorite December party songs at the time and Now, it’s mostly because of Holbrook’s Tom-heavy drums and spell-like electric guitars that make the music contagious—the band digs out so much lustre that it hardly matters what Meloy sings. Lines like “Lie Down with You, There’s Nothing I Won’t Do/Save My Rifle” are undoubtedly well-crafted, though, and the lyrics about paying off library fines show that he knows his audience well. But for such a literary band, the Decembrists are very good at evoking an atmosphere. Funk and Conlee’s accompaniment — he’s on pedal steel and theremin, she’s on piano, Hammond, Rhodes, and accordion — is gorgeously colored in the band’s folk-pop core. Melloy is as good at writing hooks as coming up with vaguely disturbing old-fashioned premises. Finally, when he beckoned to his compatriots: “Come and join the youth beauty army”, the invitation was quite attractive.

Many people accepted him. The Decemberists became a wildly popular touring show with a well-established catalog, and their quirky brand of folk-pop helped define the sound of the indie and alternative realms for over a decade for the next decade, trickling down to more accessible descendants. You might be able to draw a line from their substance and performance to the less revered things that took over the world a decade later, Mumfords and Lumineers and Of Monsters And Mens of the world. If this seems like a shameful legacy, then at least the revolution the Decembrists started was far more successful than the one that gave them their name.

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