Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today
. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Steamboat Springs "Colin Meloy Sings Live!"
The Decemberists' "We Both Go Down Together" is not a funny song. It's not supposed to be - like most of the group's tracks, "We Both Go Down Together" is heavy on dreary retrospection, setting a vaguely dark scene with wayward characters and looming cliffs.
But on "Colin Meloy Sings Live!," that song ends with audience laughter. That's because Meloy, the leading voice and songwriter for The Decemberists, has a charming presence that comes through on stage, if not on his records. So he holds out the last notes of "We Both Go Down Together," drawing giggles before launching into the first of several random asides that keep Meloy's live record from being just an acoustic Decemberists best-of.
Shifting comfortably from the "worst song I ever wrote" - a tune called "Dracula's Daughter," which, though funny, is a genuinely terrible attempt at songwriting - to a disarmingly full arrangement of "The Engine Driver," Meloy gives his first full live record an intimate feel by admitting his faults, embracing odd offshoots in taste and generally enjoying the music he makes.
"Consolers of the Lonely"
For the first four tracks or so, The Raconteurs' "Consolers of the Lonely" sounds every bit like a White Stripes record. It's possible that association comes from Jack White's guitar-playing role in the band, but it's just as likely that for the first four songs, there's nothing about the band's sophomore album to make it stand out from what we've already heard.
It's a good thing for the Brendan Benson-fronted Raconteurs that "The Switch and the Spur" is a horn-heavy breaking point from White's screaming guitars and a slew of standard-issue rock lyrics. That's where The Raconteurs find their sound, in classic rock odes to big arrangements that actually have something to do with one another - instead of moving from one Stripes-ish guitar riff to another.
It's a bad thing for The Raconteurs that the songs on "Consolers of the Lonely" don't really get good until "Five On The Five" (nine tracks in), and they don't get consistent in their particular take on rock 'n' roll until "Pull This Blanket Off" (eleven tracks in).
It's the coda The Raconteurs give - a bluesy last four tracks with a kick of rock opera - that makes you go back and listen to "Consolers of the Lonely" again and again. And even if we only do that to make those last four songs feel complete, at least The Raconteurs are finding a way to make us listen.
- Margaret Hair, 4 Points