A Cautionary Song
March 6, 2011 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Do The Decemberists have too many songs about rape?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (119 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Brigands' cover of "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is better than the original.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:37 PM on March 6, 2011


During the eight years since Castaways and Cutouts came out, The Decemberists have repeatedly abducted, raped and killed women...

holy crap that's awful somebody should arrest them
posted by Avenger at 4:38 PM on March 6, 2011 [26 favorites]


As a Decemberists fan I always thought of those songs as tributes to murder ballads, like what Nick Cave does. But A Cautionary Song has bugged me.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:39 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Colin Meloy is just an excitable boy.
posted by dortmunder at 4:40 PM on March 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


How many songs have The Decemberists written about anything, in total?

That number constitutes "too many."
posted by gcbv at 4:43 PM on March 6, 2011 [40 favorites]


I think that as they're in the spirit of ye olde sea chanty, they're fine. But the writer does make a fine point of Meloy doing the call/response thing to rape songs. I don't know, it seems a bit overblown to me and I doubt thousands of rape enthusiasts are slobbering at the thought of a new album of olden style rape anthems, but I also respect the writer's research and thoughtfulness on the subject.

Point being: Feel free to be offended, but there are likely better topics for your outrage.
posted by GilloD at 4:44 PM on March 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


Well, he's no Mark Millar, at least.
posted by rewil at 4:44 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


.....the Decemberists...oh wait yeah they're still around. For reason an entire genre of music stopped existing for me after I quit college.

I liked The Sporting Life. I like songs that tell little stories.
posted by The Whelk at 4:45 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I do think that if we subject gamer culture and sports culture to scrutiny over things like this than indie rock culture is also worth a look. The article talks about misogyny in other forms of popular music but that seems less narrative and more direct, if that makes sense.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:48 PM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


For one thing, their lead singer, Colin Meloy, sounded like a British goat. No, wait; that's not quite right, and I want to get this right: Think of Morrissey's morose drone, and combine that with the nasal mewl of Blink-182's two lead singers. And NOW imagine that sound coming from a goat.

This. is why I don't listen to the Decemberists
posted by John Cohen at 4:48 PM on March 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


By my count, Ween only has one song that fits, not that they are any less dark or ironic. They also don't have british goat voices...
posted by schyler523 at 4:53 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, she has a point that they have some songs about rape. And the women in Decemberists songs do generally have a shitty time, but everyone in a Decemberists song, on the whole, has a shitty time. She addresses it in the article, but I think it is a valid reason that their songs are like historical documents describing what it was like. ' A Cautionary Tale' never fails to make me think ' Holy shit, that's what it was like back then. Women had to do that'

What is the author wanting from Meloy though? He's given his reasons and it's obviously not good enough.

And I think that they don't get a hard time about singing about rape because they're a bit more literate and descriptive in their songwriting and it takes a while to decode. The authour said that it took a fair amount of close listening to notice. A vast difference from a rapper putting a call out to ' Rape 'dem Hoes'
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 4:54 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I generally love The Awl, but this reads like a freshman comp essay. This guy's comment is better.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:55 PM on March 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


You may think I'm making light of the more recent victims, but I'm not. We're all making fun of the less recent ones.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:55 PM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've always sort of liked their throwback pirate-y sea shanties, but man, when you stack them up like that, perhaps Meloy does really have a problem with women. I never realized he had such a streak going of horrible graphic tales.
posted by mathowie at 4:55 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if Obama paid attention to the lyrics?
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:57 PM on March 6, 2011


doesn't he also like The National? Have you listened to 'Evil'? Obama is admitting he's an evil brain-eating zombie. Wake up, sheeple!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:00 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree with the general idea that the songs are coming from a sea-shanty, murder-ballady, music-as-fiction place. I don't find A Cautionary Song, though it is much more graphic, especially questionable.

The one that really bothers me is We Both Go Down Together, honestly, which seems to be about a rich male raping (maybe?) a lower-class woman, insulting her upbringing and status, and then insisting that she commit suicide with him. Never really could find a way to not hate that song.
posted by penduluum at 5:03 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


She addresses it in the article, but I think it is a valid reason that their songs are like historical documents describing what it was like.

This is the same claim made by many rappers -- reportage. They're just telling it like it is, or in the Decemberists' case, was.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:04 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Telling stories in which rape occurs does not, in and of itself, make you a misognist.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:11 PM on March 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


If my sister brought home two Decemberists albums for me to hear, I would refer to her as a C., too.
posted by still lampin' at 5:13 PM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is the same claim made by many rappers -- reportage. They're just telling it like it is, or in the Decemberists' case, was.

So they shouldnt reference it at all then? Pretend that life in the past was all peaches and roses? Unless they're making a direct call to rape (which they're not) then they're telling a story from the point of view of a character in a particular time setting. Rappers, on the other hand, are usually representing themselves and are singing in an area where fantasy and reality are tenuously close and hard to distinguish.

I've always though of The Decemberists as being musical literature, each song is a contained story. We don't see articles bemoaning the writing about rape in novels or short stories so I don't see the difference here.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 5:15 PM on March 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


"I am so not a raper!"
posted by bardic at 5:16 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Incidentially, the 'sociopathic child-killer' rapist in Hazards of Love is named as an evil bastard (the Rake), admits to being evil himself - 'I expect that you think that I should be hunted' - and is ultimately dragged to hell by the ghosts of his murdered children.

An argument that the story 'glorifies rape' just doesn't work.


Plate of Beans.
__________

Thinking.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:22 PM on March 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


doesn't [Obama] also like The National?

I cringed when they played a six-minute instrumental version of Fake Empire while waiting for him to make his election victory/acceptance speech.
posted by carsonb at 5:23 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Telling stories in which rape occurs does not, in and of itself, make you a misogynist.

For true. I considered coming in with a spirited defense along the lines of how, as a feminist and a person who was sexually assaulted, I have no trouble with Meloy's lyrics. (In fact I will sing to myself, "The gentlemen are calling and the snow is softly falling on her petticoat" when I am not likely to be seen or scolded.) But I pre-emptively hate both sides in such an extremely polarized argument -- thoughtless internet dudes and up-sucking Cool Girls vs. archetypal That's-Not-Funny feminist caricatures. I don't want to join either one.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:37 PM on March 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


Do The Decemberists have too many songs about rape?

ftfy
posted by nathancaswell at 5:45 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always assumed that "A Cautionary Tale" was the world's most elaborate "your mom" joke.
posted by chundo at 5:53 PM on March 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the article:"To an extent, folk music is about preserving cultural traditions and historical texts, which is what Briggs and Prior did in recording these songs. Meloy's songs are pseudo-historical, faux folk songs: original compositions that imitate the themes and subject matters of old ballads without any additional reflection on these themes."

This is the part where she lost my assumption that she had an argument (and my attention).

Is Meloy to provide that additional reflection in the same song? Perhaps in a different song referencing the first? Maybe in the liner notes? I see he had some interviews about this--I guess his responses about the genre and history were not reflective enough for her.

Today's faux preserver of tradition is tomorrow's revered folk singer, like it or not.
posted by hanoixan at 6:05 PM on March 6, 2011


I've always thought this. It diminished my enjoyment of the Decemberists to the point where I stopped buying their albums. I had to delete all the songs that were about rape, or "taking" someone while she cried, and then it just wasn't enjoyable to listen to them anymore.
posted by pinky at 6:07 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Brigands' cover of "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is better than the original.

Please tell me you're kidding. Or drunk. That was horrible.
posted by dobbs at 6:17 PM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've never listened to the Decembrists, and that decision is fueled entirely by Colin Meloy's god-awful entry in the 33 1/3 series.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:28 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


the one Craig Finn should have wrote?

they're a good band. they sound very little like The Replacements, but they're still good
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:38 PM on March 6, 2011


God awful? I thought Meloy did a wonderful job describing what it was like growing up in rural America in the 80s, and loving the Replacements.

Marianne Faithfull covering The Crane Wife 3 on Letterman (with Marc Ribot on guitar)
posted by puny human at 6:38 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I listened to the first couple of Decemberist albums, and then I realized "I'm a legionnaire / Camel in disrepair / hoping for a frigidaire" is such utter bullshit, you could use it as the platonic ideal of fertilizer, and then went back to being bitter that Neutral Milk Hotel wasn't going to make any more music.

Are they still like that or have they gotten slightly less precious?
posted by Grimgrin at 6:44 PM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


HEDLEY: Qualifications?
THUG: Morrissey, The Decemberists, Ween, Arcade Fire, and The Decemberists.
HEDLEY: You said "The Decemberists" twice.
THUG: I like The Decemberists.
posted by zippy at 6:45 PM on March 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


so let me get this straight - they stop releasing songs about rape and NOW she complains?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:55 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read the article and thought, well, guilty as charged. Kind of. I hate Odalisque and A Cautionary Song, and I usually skip them when I listen to Castaways and Cutouts, which I do fairly often, because the rest of the album is sublime. And they've made how many albums now-- six or seven?-- and the percentage of songs which fit the description of "rape songs" is actually pretty low.

And I love me some narratives, and I love me some literariness, and I love Meloy's imagination. And unlike so many people who have already commented here, I love the Decemberists, too.
posted by jokeefe at 6:55 PM on March 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Decemberist hate reminds me a lot of fixie hate. It comes strongest from people who know little of the thing they're hating. It's just mis-targeted hate of the type of person they think enjoys that sort of thing.
posted by Plutor at 6:56 PM on March 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't know the Decemberists. Do all of their murder ballad-esque songs feature women as victims? Because I don't think that's actually true of the British folk revival murder ballads. There's a lot of fucked up sex and violence, but women are about as likely to be perpetrators of it as victims.

I think that a lot of the British folk revival was about finding an identity that was purged of middle-class respectability. The folk revivalists were a bunch of people who had been raised not to talk about inappropriate subjects and not to raise their voices and not to make a scene, and that was what it meant to be English or Scottish. And then (they thought) it turned out that if you looked beyond the Victorian sentimentality, you could find a whole English and Scottish tradition that was about wild, out-of-control sex and violence. They didn't need to look to America for liberation from middle-class respectability. Here was a local tradition that was scandalous and inappropriate.

(It's kind of safely scandalous and inappropriate, though. Sex acts in murder ballads tend not to be graphically described. Rape even less so. I mean, in "Bonnie Banks of Fordie," the threatened rape isn't even called rape. The highwayman says to his intended victim "will you be a robber's wife/ or will you die by my penknife," which is a pretty euphemistic way to refer to it. And then she threatens to sic her long-lost brother on him, and he realizes that he *is* the long-lost brother and he's about to rape his sister, and he kills himself. The end! Totally twisted, but no graphic rape. It sounds like maybe there's more description in Decemberists songs?)

In truth, I think a lot of those songs are basically cautionary stories about the dangers of unrestrained sexuality. That's sort of why rape doesn't figure all that much: the real danger isn't rape, but seduction. But to the singers and fans, what was fun about them wasn't the message. It was just that the songs were twisted and perverse and inappropriate.
posted by craichead at 7:20 PM on March 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Decemberist hate reminds me a lot of fixie hate. It comes strongest from people who know little of the thing they're hating. It's just mis-targeted hate of the type of person they think enjoys that sort of thing.

I know alot about the Decemberists.

I know about bands, music, culture, ethnomusicology, the practical application of sound design, acoustics, and any and all relevant spheres involving all cross sections from whence and where a band like The Decemberists could have been created, could have garnered an audience, and could have created themselves a niche in a music scene.

Sincerely, I do.

And this band....they are horrible. Truly horrible.

Thanks, though, for trying to water down the focus on the fact that they're horrible.
posted by gcbv at 7:28 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The author has successfully found the dividing line between talking about rape in media as an actual problem and rape in media as a stultifying hobby horse.

Next up: Have The Mountain Goats written too many violent revenge fantasy songs? It's not pro-murder, but it's not exactly anti-murder, is it?
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:28 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I never knew how much some folk hated The Decemberists. That's just weird.

I skip the rape songs (it took several listens on some of these to know which was which) but also, frankly, the murder songs as well, particularly something like The Shankill Butchers which is about an actual nightmare rather than just a bit of dark fantasising. Great bits of music but not what I want to relax to, y'know?
posted by curious nu at 7:44 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not that familiar with the group, and the article was too long, but I'm going to guess that the answer isn't "No, they don't have enough songs about rape" or "Can't have too many songs about rape."
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:47 PM on March 6, 2011


I have noticed that in a typical Decemberists song, things do not end well for PEOPLE. Eli the Barrow Boy, the narrator of I Was Meant For The Stage, the narrator in Yankee Bayonet, etc.

Decemberists songs do not end well, generally, and this is one reason why long-time fans have had pause with the latest one.
posted by Danf at 7:50 PM on March 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Your favorite songwriters about rape suck.
posted by spock at 8:01 PM on March 6, 2011


METAFILTER: thousands of rape enthusiasts are slobbering at the thought of a new album of olden style rape anthems
posted by philip-random at 8:02 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


We don't see articles bemoaning the writing about rape in novels or short stories so I don't see the difference here.

No, but if one author wrote a lot of stories about rape, and did a call-and-response thing when he got to those passages in readings, you might think that someone would bemoan it.
posted by kenko at 8:10 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the consensus on Stieg Larsson? I'm on the final book of the Millenium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc.) and I've frequently found myself uncomfortable with the use of sexual violence as a compelling narrative device. I understand that part of Larsson's motivation in writing the novels was to call attention to these issues, but at what point does that shift from being a noble cause, to being a cheap way to make your work more dramatic and interesting?

I ask because I think the same logic would apply here... if The Decemberists are playing it for irony then does that give the work more artistic merit and shield them from the fact that they're profiting (in part) off of rape stories? Should they get held to a stricter standard because they're (mostly) dudes, or does the song speak for itself regardless of author?
posted by Riki tiki at 8:16 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is with Colin Meloy's accent? Not since John Fogerty has a white boy mangled his voice quite so.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:18 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


P.S. Rape is neither fun nor cool, sea chanties aside.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:21 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Cautionary Song is perhaps in bad taste, but I'd call it the outlier. Many of their songs are written from the point of view of evil people, purposefully and obviously. Is Nabokov a child molester for imagining Humbert Humbert? I'd think not. But Meloy is for inventing The Rake?

Can't we expect an audience to use some critical thinking skills? This is where irony comes in: a rich boy thinks that he's some tragic Romeo when really he's coercing his impoverished lover into a suicide-pact. The irony's not that rape happened, but in his protagonist's conception of themselves as good people. Saying that his songs (or Lolita, or any other work that features misogynistic characters) are about allowing people to "enjoy uncomplicated misogynistic fantasies" is jumping to conclusions without nearly enough supporting evidence. It seems like a freshman English major's mistake: not paying attention to how characters are depicted by their authors. If their actions are endorsed or not.

Sure, female characters meet grisly fates. As does... every character in a Decemberists song. It should be worth something that another song is a sympathetic portrayal of underaged male prostitutes.

There are a lot of "being"s in that list, because women in Decemberists ballads rarely play an active role in their own stories. They're usually tabulae rasae; we get no sense of their personal experience or their individuality.

Mm. Kind of. Usually the only characters with depth in Decemberists songs are the protagonists. And since it's a male leader singer, they tend to be male. But not always, I can name quite a few songs with rich female protagonists or secondary-characters:

My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist
Constantinople
From My Own True Love
Leslie Ann Levine
The Bandit Queen
The Crane Wife
The Infanta
Valerie Plame
Yakee Bayonett
Dracula's Daughter (just kidding)

Most follow the tragically doomed lovers trope, but again... so does every Decemberists song.

It's suspicious that an article on gender politics in The Decemberists would not mention 'On The Bus Mall'. I think they should get some credit for writing a sympathetic portrayal of teenage male prostitues. These aren't frat-boy rap lyrics here.

Anyway kudos to the author for addressing these issues, but it seems like she's overly-crafting the evidence to fit her thesis. Meloy's a real person, we could be a little more charitable about making sure we examine the complexities of the situation rather than jump to making whatever argument sounds awesome.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:25 PM on March 6, 2011 [22 favorites]


They always seemed like a second-rate Scarlet's Well to me.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:30 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rape is neither fun nor cool, sea chanties aside.

Who said that it was?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:34 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


A vast difference from a rapper putting a call out to ' Rape 'dem Hoes'

Jesus Christ. Seriously?
posted by DaDaDaDave at 8:37 PM on March 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


And this band....they are horrible. Truly horrible.

Well, that was nuanced. Please allow me to retort in kind: You're wrong.
posted by Gin and Comics at 8:40 PM on March 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Edward Gorey died and was reincarnated as a band and that is the Decemberists.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:47 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why I only listen to the Jesus Lizard.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:59 PM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a shame I got over this case of the flu, as my snort upon reading this would have been much more productive.
posted by adipocere at 9:03 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Edward Gorey died and was reincarnated as a band and that is the Decemberists.

It's more like he died and somebody less talented is using his corpse as some sort of horrible puppet. The Decembrists are the Weekend At Bernies of ironic morbidity.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:03 PM on March 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


What's the consensus on Stieg Larsson?

Crap.

Edward Gorey died and was reincarnated as a band and that is the Decemberists.

Risible.
posted by kenko at 9:07 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think the Decemberists are terrible, but I do listen to them and think: if this is the great that our indie rock culture produces then it's a pretty weak culture. Which, in fact, it might be. But I remain open to surprises.
posted by argybarg at 9:09 PM on March 6, 2011


plutor:Decemberist hate reminds me a lot of fixie hate. It comes strongest from people who know little of the thing they're hating. It's just mis-targeted hate of the type of person they think enjoys that sort of thing.


gcbv: I know alot about the Decemberists.

I know about bands, music, culture, ethnomusicology, the practical application of sound design, acoustics, and any and all relevant spheres involving all cross sections from whence and where a band like The Decemberists could have been created, could have garnered an audience, and could have created themselves a niche in a music scene.

Sincerely, I do.
And this band....they are horrible. Truly horrible.
Thanks, though, for trying to water down the focus on the fact that they're horrible.


A-fucking men. I'm getting mighty sick of this strummy-strum-atonal-waily-young-men-being-twee music. And as far as fixie/Decemberists hate goes, I'll have you know that mr. gcbv rides his fixie in full hipster attire and therefore has full authority to say the Decemberists stink.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:10 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The thing that surprised me about this article wasn't that someone was complaining about the Decemberists writing too many songs about rape. It was that Colin Meloy had started out relatively unfamiliar with the milieu I thought he was doing pastiches of all along.

And I would have though this article had a lot more merit if the author had actually done some analysis on the rape-y songs of the folk tradition, like The Twa Magicians, and compared and contrasted various versions of them to Decemberists songs, instead of half-ass guessing what Meloy meant by his comments about Prior and Tabor and criticizing him on that basis. There's an argument to be made about the role of rape in the folk tradition compared and contrasted to the role of rape in Decemberists songs. This article is, unfortunately, too shallow and badly informed about both the Decemberists (e.g., what about how men end up?) and the folk revival to make it.
posted by immlass at 9:10 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've given maybe twenty Decemberist songs a proper listen (starting about six years ago) and, though I do not consider them essential or indispensable, I certainly don't think of them as CRAP. In fact, on first hearing them (through a room-mates door), the artist that came to mind (from the misty weird depths of mid-70s progressive folk) was Al Stewart (before he turned into a rather moist soft-rock balladeer and started selling gobs of records and ).

This song in particular came to mind. Needless to say, it tells a story.
posted by philip-random at 9:18 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


also gonna be honest, it's a little silly that only a few of us are talking about the article/at least making a pass about discussing the post... if all you have to contribute to the thread is "lol i hate that band", why are you even bothering to post?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:23 PM on March 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I rather enjoyed the "lol i hate that band" part of the thread. I've never been able to suppress my gag reflex long enough to establish a truly informed opinion about the decemberists, so I consider this valuable recon.

Time to reque the perfect triumvirate: Blood on the Tracks, Desire, Street Legal
posted by Chekhovian at 9:38 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Edward Gorey died and was reincarnated as a band and that is the Decemberists.

What a heartbreaking idea. I suppose I just don't understand the appeal of the Decemberists. Their music sounds so horrible to me. How can "literariness" ever make up for that? Isn't that what books are for? It's not a musical virtue.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:39 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a heartbreaking idea. I suppose I just don't understand the appeal of the Decemberists. Their music sounds so horrible to me. How can "literariness" ever make up for that? Isn't that what books are for? It's not a musical virtue.

why not? We listen to music that reflects our lives. I read lots of books so it seems like alot of the bands I listen to sing about books. Not as much any more, but it's as valid as criteria as 'dancability'. and 'literariness' can cover everything from twee indie rock to Iron Maiden summarizing Rime of the Ancient Mariner through metal

the 'literariness' makes it possible to have this discussion. are the songs about rape and abduction intentionally disturbing or unintentionally disturbing? do indie rock fans give a pass to this sort of thing (wasn't there some scandal with Isaac Brock)? does being part of a tradition make it okay? why does Nick Cave get a pass and some rappers don't? what does Greil Marcus have to say about this?

i was hoping the hivemind could help me figure it out. i'm not about to stop listening to The Decemberists but A Cautionary Song will keep bugging me.

i will say that The Decemberists were pretty boring when i saw them live

here's a great early article that talks about The Decemberists and Neutral Milk Hotel
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:46 PM on March 6, 2011


I didn't know what an odalisque was, or a Myla Goldberg, but I wanted to be the kind of person who knew these things

I thought that bit of the article pretty much explained the appeal
posted by Chekhovian at 9:47 PM on March 6, 2011


I don't give a shit about indie music or fixies or scenes or whatever, but I do think that the Decemberists are the best band ever, and if I could only listen to their music for the rest of my life I think I'd be ok with that.

The songs tell stories, some of them happen to be about unpleasant things. For me they provoke thought and paint little scenes in my mind.

Some of the things Colin Meloy does with words make my brain do happy backflips.
posted by davey_darling at 9:47 PM on March 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, see, "I'm a legionnaire / Camel in disrepair / hoping for a frigidaire" is the first Decemberists song I ever heard and instead of thinking it was heinous bullshit I thought it was awesome because I like strange rhymes and songs that are literate yet do not take themselves all that seriously. I still like the Decemberists - you might even say they are my favorite band - although after much listening I have come to the conclusion that the whole of the Hazards of Love is pretty much awful. So, yeah, your favorite band sucks and mine does not, or does, according to taste. Fortunately there's a lot of music in the world. Some of it makes me uneasy and sometimes that's a good thing. There's an argument that any murder ballad is a cautionary tale: does the Wind & Rain and all its endless variations act as a suggestion that murder is a great idea or a suggestion that shoving your sister in the millpond is not, perhaps, the best solution and will be found out, magic harp or no? You can make songs about stuff that's not so great without recommending it.

Definitely it's a good damn thing they didn't have the internet when I was 20 and earnest or all the world would have been treated to a lengthy essay on Selling England by the Pound and what it all really means, man.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:51 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a heartbreaking idea. I suppose I just don't understand the appeal of the Decemberists. Their music sounds so horrible to me. How can "literariness" ever make up for that? Isn't that what books are for? It's not a musical virtue.

It's always astonishing to me when adults can't conceive of the idea that others have different tastes than they do. I like the Decemberists because they sound good to me. That they're "literary" is a plus.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:57 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know who I really can't stand? Conor Oberst. I hate the sound of his voice and his emo-tragic affect makes me want to puke. But when people tell me they love Bright Eyes, I've learned to just tell myself "different strokes" and not judge them for it. Because music means different things to different people. I ordered Castaways and Cutouts all the way from Canada in 2002, when I was 15, because it hadn't come out in the US yet. My best friend and I listened to our Canadian copies and tried to figure out the lyrics together over AIM, because the album wasn't up on the 2 or so lyrics sites that existed then. Colin Meloy's personal email address was up on the Decemberists' website, and we emailed him, and he emailed us back. It was fucking awesome, and he's a nice guy and just leave Colin alone.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:05 PM on March 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well right, for instance, I love a lot of Bright Eyes, especially his Four Winds side. But it doesn't bother me that lots of people hate him and that they say so - like, so what? Conor Oberst is not my mother. Who cares if other people think he's annoying? In any case, he is - and it only makes my affection for him sweeter and more complex. I don't need other people to feel that way. When it comes to music, dislike is as fine thing to feel and to talk about as anything else.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:18 PM on March 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why does she keep callling them a prog band? Is that what they are? I've only ever heard one Decembrist song (Leslie Anne Levine) and it was less than ten minutes long, contained more singing than instrumental breaks, only one time signature, and exactly zero wizards.
posted by Chichibio at 10:43 PM on March 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Lovecraft in Brooklyn:doesn't he also like The National? Have you listened to 'Evil'? Obama is admitting he's an evil brain-eating zombie. Wake up, sheeple!

excuse me for a moment while I become That Guy: the song you're referring to is "Conversation 16," which contains the lines "I was afraid, I'd eat your brains / 'Cause I'm evil" and arguably has more to do with The National's usual themes of early-adulthood anxieties and post-urban alienation than with, say, actual eating of brains and general zombie activity.

"Evil" is by Interpol, and depending who you ask, it's either about Camus' The Outsider or about two-timing women.
posted by heeeraldo at 10:50 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I listened to the first couple of Decemberist albums, and then I realized "I'm a legionnaire / Camel in disrepair / hoping for a frigidaire" is such utter bullshit, you could use it as the platonic ideal of fertilizer, and then went back to being bitter that Neutral Milk Hotel wasn't going to make any more music.

Are they still like that or have they gotten slightly less precious?


Wait, you like Neutral Milk Hotel and you're complaining that the Decemberists are precious?

It seems like people on Metafilter stop complaining about indie bands only once they're about 15 years old. At that point it goes from "devil music that all those hipsters on my lawn are listening to" to "totally authentic music my older brother played for me on the tape deck in his old Buick, you clearly have no taste if you don't like it."
posted by nasreddin at 10:53 PM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why does she keep callling them a prog band? Is that what they are? I've only ever heard one Decembrist song (Leslie Anne Levine) and it was less than ten minutes long, contained more singing than instrumental breaks, only one time signature, and exactly zero wizards.

It depends on what album you hear, but a good amount of their music is at least prog-related. The album The Crane Wife has two songs over 10 minutes long, one of which is a 3-part epic about pirates (...and rape). The EP The Tain is an 18 minute song about an Irish mythological epic. The Hazards of Love is a full-on concept album with leitmotifs, reprises, and one song that ends in a long Kansas impression. Their music on these albums often includes passages that sound akin to something Jethro Tull or The Strawbs would have released had they formed in the 2000's. Additionally, The Decemberists are one of the few popular indie bands to be fully embraced by the stodgy old internet prog community.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:08 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an aside, other contemporary indie bands the prog rock community embraces include: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Radiohead, Mew, and dredg.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:31 PM on March 6, 2011


When it comes to music, dislike is as fine thing to feel and to talk about as anything else.

Fuck yeah. I would never have found punk rock if I'd only listened to people that agreed with me. Or learned to love sushi. I love it when I've been proven wrong, particularly when it concerns "artistic" issues.

Speaking of which, can someone please explain to me what's so NOT awful about the original Star Trek?
posted by philip-random at 11:34 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like people on Metafilter stop complaining about indie bands

Are we reading the same MetaFilter? No one here EVER stops complaining about indie bands. Every FPP about any band immediately turns into a referendum on how much more someone hates that band than everyone else.

And that's what makes threads like this well nigh impossible to read. The question before us is whether Colin Meloy is a misogynist, not whether the Decemberists are the Worst Band You Have Ever Heard And How Can They Sell More Than One Copy Oh By The Way Your Favorite Band Sucks.
posted by dw at 12:03 AM on March 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Several people here have said that all the people, male and female, in The Decemberist's songs have unhappy endings. Fair enough. But if the men characters get to tell their own story and have personalities while the women characters are just 2-dimensional victims, that gets pretty damn tiring to listen to after a while. It's unimaginative and lazy writing, as well as being a bit sexist.
posted by harriet vane at 12:18 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Phillip:
Let me tackle the Star Trek question. My starting assumption is that an important part of your artistic judgement has to be based on the context of the period when the piece was made. Remember Star Trek came out almost 50 years ago. There were three television channels. An episode where Kirk was forced to kiss Uhura was the first time an interracial kiss had ever been shown on television in America.

Yes a lot of their special effects are terrible. Yes they sometimes have thrown placemats are used as "Aliens". They had about 50 cents for special effects in each episode. I think they did pretty well with what they had. A friend of mine will only play "the latest" computer games with the best graphics. I still play computer games from 1994 (I heart Xcom). Its hard to show people Babylon 5 episodes now and not be painfully embarrassed (the CG was literally award winning at the time!)

Maybe you will disagree with my temporal relativism, so allow me one last point that is independent of time period. The interactions among the top three (Kirk-Spock-McCoy) are really fantastic, very very human. Its hard to quantify. Some people compare it to the Freudian id, ego, superego. Somehow it just works so well. I think no later "Treks" have had that kind of interaction.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:30 AM on March 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


The one that really bothers me is We Both Go Down Together, honestly, which seems to be about a rich male raping (maybe?) a lower-class woman, insulting her upbringing and status, and then insisting that she commit suicide with him. Never really could find a way to not hate that song.

Weird. It is about that! And it's never anything but grandly tragic (and gorgeous). Certainly it's not jokey. It's dark melodrama in song form.

I understand better why 'A Cautionary Song' rubs people the wrong way, and if it weren't a goddam great song, it would probably annoy me too.

Meloy is a hugely talented songwriter, which is what it comes down to for me. He's got a gift for weaving tremendous pop hooks into ornate instrumentation that's pretty rare. Obviously YMMV, esp. if you're more concerned about aesthetics than songcraft.

(This, incidentally, is also why I dig Bright Eyes/Oberst. Yes, he's whiny and emo and shallowly political and his persona and fans are irritating. But 'Four Winds' and 'First Day of My Life' and 'Hit the Switch' and 'Road to Joy'? Those are great fucking songs. I mean just listen to them.)
posted by eugenen at 12:37 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


so allow me one last point that is independent of time period. The interactions among the top three (Kirk-Spock-McCoy) are really fantastic, very very human. Its hard to quantify. Some people compare it to the Freudian id, ego, superego. Somehow it just works so well. I think no later "Treks" have had that kind of interaction.

you're the second person to raise this point with me in the last week or ten days. Okay, I will now watch original series shows with more open eyes (and mind).

but I still think I'll end up concluding that Dr Who was better
posted by philip-random at 12:44 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Phillip, you might want to choose a few of the best episodes to watch first. The select episodes are really fantastic, some of the other episodes...wow not so much. Though Shatner hamming it up as Kirk hamming it up as 30's gangster is so terrible its sort of awesome (you have to understand they didn't have any money for that episode, and the gangster section of the Paramount lot was available...so they came up with justification for filming there...*shudders*)

I have nightmares that some paper I bs'd my way through 2 hours before it was due will be critically analyzed fifty years later. That scenario is basically about half of the original trek.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:50 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I've never watched Dr. Who so I really can't compare them. But I will throwdown my nerd gauntlet anyway and declare that B5 is still the best television SciFi ever, though the 17 combined seasons of Stargate have lots of merit. Its like Classical vs Jazz. B5 was more or less entirely "orchestrated" from the beginning. Stargate evolved over time from some general notions of what it should be.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:59 AM on March 7, 2011


Definitely it's a good damn thing they didn't have the internet when I was 20 and earnest or all the world would have been treated to a lengthy essay on Selling England by the Pound and what it all really means, man.

You and me both, MGL, you and me both. Fortunately my late night stoned musings on the Transcendent Greatness of Close to the Edge are lost forever in the aether.
posted by jokeefe at 1:20 AM on March 7, 2011


harriet vane: "Several people here have said that all the people, male and female, in The Decemberist's songs have unhappy endings. Fair enough. But if the men characters get to tell their own story and have personalities while the women characters are just 2-dimensional victims, that gets pretty damn tiring to listen to after a while. It's unimaginative and lazy writing, as well as being a bit sexist."

Go back and read Solon and Thanks's comment. She made a great point about cherry-picking from the Decemberists' repertoire, and also about what options there are for female protagonists when your band has a male singer. How many songs with women protagonists did Frank Sinatra have?
posted by Plutor at 3:09 AM on March 7, 2011


I don't know about that, but they have far too many songs I can't stand.
posted by Decani at 3:24 AM on March 7, 2011


Several people here have said that all the people, male and female, in The Decemberist's songs have unhappy endings. Fair enough. But if the men characters get to tell their own story and have personalities while the women characters are just 2-dimensional victims, that gets pretty damn tiring to listen to after a while. It's unimaginative and lazy writing, as well as being a bit sexist.

I get the sense you haven't listened to any Decemberists albums.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 3:39 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the clarification, One Second Before Awakening. It appears what you're describing has been classified as crossover prog, which I don't find terribly useful as a descriptor, but cheerily accept as musical boundaries continue to blur and meld. I say that because I don't want to be the guy who silos music into neat little pigeonholes, but to be honest I think "prog-influenced" is more apt. Black Moth (awesome) do a lot more with the recent history of electronica than prog, while Mew and dredg seem like pop acts with touches of experimentation. Radiohead are definitely the kings of this subgenre.

I suppose what it comes down to is the futile quest to force good bands into helpful marketing boxes, and one man's indie is another woman's prog. We're free to change our metadata as we wish in this wondrous 21st century, and since nothing is as stake in this argument, I think I'll still (stodgily?) mark up the Decembrists under the so-broad-it's-almost-useless category of indie until I get around to listening to their catalog.

I believe my stubbornness comes from hearing folks, upon the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, call Wilco an "experimental" band. A good band that doesn't experiment is usually crap (Motörhead gets a pass here) but only a band dedicated to experimentation deserves the tag. Wilco is not that band. What about Sonic Youth, you ask? I file them under art rock.

Shit, maybe I am the guy who silos music into neat little pigeonholes...
posted by Chichibio at 4:10 AM on March 7, 2011


harriet vane: Several people here have said that all the people, male and female, in The Decemberist's songs have unhappy endings. Fair enough. But if the men characters get to tell their own story and have personalities while the women characters are just 2-dimensional victims, that gets pretty damn tiring to listen to after a while. It's unimaginative and lazy writing, as well as being a bit sexist.

As has been pointed out, the band's lead singer is male, making male narrators a more obvious choice. Furthermore, songs such as 'From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)' are not only told from the perspective of a female character, they don't feature any violence (sexual or otherwise). So your claim is simply untrue.
posted by Dysk at 4:43 AM on March 7, 2011


I've always found that the Decemberists remind me of a more somnolent Blyth Power. I'd always listened to it as background music from the college radio station, and had never paid any attention to the lyrics until reading this article.

I agree with the person above who compared the Decemberists to Steig Larson's novels. There's a similarity in how both are openly against sexual violence, but at the same time choose to portray it in almost pornographic ways.
posted by Forktine at 5:59 AM on March 7, 2011


lol i hate that band
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:17 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think the author's points are entirely without merit, I'll actually add - I think her conclusions are too sweeping, but she does definitely have a point about there being a disproportionally large number of Decemberists songs that feature rape as a plot point. I think it's fine for rape to be an element in their songs but when songs-about-rape become a trope it's maybe something to be reexamined.

It might be a consequence of the band being mostly dudes... Jenny's their only female member, and while she plays a mean accordion I don't know how much input she has on lyrics or anything. They want to write about "dark" subjects so naturally they throw in rape along with murder, infanticide, suicide... but generally mostly women are getting raped, while everyone is getting murdered/whatever. So after awhile it feels like a campaign against women. I don't think it's purposeful, but I also don't think they're considering how it might come off to some people.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:35 AM on March 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Speaking of pigeonholes, why all the references to the Decemberists as an indie band? They seem to reside on Capitol, which is about as far from indie as you can get. Is Motley Crue indie for putting out their first album on the preciously-named Leathur Records?
posted by jtron at 6:37 AM on March 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


That seems a little bit to be having it both ways, Brother Dysk. If they can't write songs from the point of view of a woman, how come they do sometimes write songs from the point of view of a woman?

It also strikes me as potentially problematic that their songs that are told from the perspective of women are songs that don't feature violence. So they're capable of speaking from the perspective of women; they just choose to describe violence against women from the perspective of perpetrators and observers. I don't want to judge, because I don't know the band, but that seems a little off to me. It's not that having a male singer makes them incapable of showing women's point of view. It's that it's more fun to think about sexual violence and degradation of women, which they apparently describe in a lot of detail, without considering the victim's point of view.
are openly against sexual violence, but at the same time choose to portray it in almost pornographic ways.
Ok, so that seems like a difference from the murder ballad tradition that they're playing with. Those songs do not describe sexual violence in pornographic ways. In fact, they're pretty vague on details entirely.

It sounds like maybe the Decemberists bring a gothic sensibility to the murder ballad tradition?

Finally, that Shankill Butchers song makes me really uncomfortable. It's an interesting uncomfortable: I'm pretty sure I wouldn't feel the same way if the actual murders had occurred in the 1870s, or even the 1920s, rather than the 1970s. But crap. That's awfully soon to be making people's real, horrific deaths into a spooky little fairy tale. Is that intentional? Are they playing with the idea that someone alluded to above, that the anachronistic language and settings make their songs more palatable than if they were describing violence in a contemporary setting?
posted by craichead at 6:38 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of pigeonholes, why all the references to the Decemberists as an indie band? They seem to reside on Capitol, which is about as far from indie as you can get.

You can acknowledge that the word means something different to what it meant 20 years ago, or you can be like one of those old school UNIX nerds going on about how 'hacker' has nothing to do with breaking into computer systems. Or even one of those old people who insists that 'gay' just means light-hearted and jolly.
posted by kersplunk at 7:24 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The really telling thing, and the largely hidden (until now) consequence to Meloy's rise is the frightening prevalence of rape, aggravated murder and even infanticide among the baristas and bookstore employees in Portland, over the last half decade.

Until now, the Portland Police have been baffled, but it is all starting to make sense now.
posted by Danf at 7:55 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking of pigeonholes, why all the references to the Decemberists as an indie band? They seem to reside on Capitol, which is about as far from indie as you can get.

You can acknowledge that the word means something different to what it meant 20 years ago, or you can be like one of those old school UNIX nerds going on about how 'hacker' has nothing to do with breaking into computer systems. Or even one of those old people who insists that 'gay' just means light-hearted and jolly.
Thanks for answering my question by implying that I'm old, a nerd, and blind to homophobia. I was unaware that the definition of "indie rock" had shifted to include "bands put out by Capitol Records."
posted by jtron at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Indie rock" no longer means "independent", in the same way that "garage rock" is often played in buildings that are not, in fact, garages.

Old gay nerds would say you shouldn't take offense to being mistaken for one.
posted by Plutor at 8:04 AM on March 7, 2011


Decemberist hate reminds me a lot of fixie hate.

There's a big difference between "Your favorite band sucks" and "Your bicycle is dangerous and poorly suited for this particular topography."

A lot of the fixie hate comes from the fact that people are using a tool as a fashion item. This criticism doesn't really apply to music, which is by definition a work of art, and subject to subjective interpretation.

If your favorite music makes you happy, more power to you -- even if I don't particularly have the same tastes as you do. I only ruffle my feathers if you deliberately ignore anything not in the Top 10, because you're willingly depriving yourself of some (probably) great music.

I guess that Fixie-hate and Decemberists-hate has LOLHIPSTERS in common...but not much else.
posted by schmod at 8:13 AM on March 7, 2011


I'm indifferent on The Decemberists, although I thought 16 Military Wives was pretty good.

But if the men characters get to tell their own story and have personalities while the women characters are just 2-dimensional victims, that gets pretty damn tiring to listen to after a while. It's unimaginative and lazy writing, as well as being a bit sexist.

It's the great liberal (in this case Feminist) catch 22 - if a person writes about the class they belong to, they're a whateverist for not writing outside of their experiences. However, If a person writes about a class they do not belong to, They're also a whateverist because what the hell do they know about what people not like them experience ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Thanks, Plutor. I guess I always hear "indie rock" used in its sense of "rock music released on independent labels if not self-released;" the phrase doesn't tell me a lot about the sound, though, and it's pretty strange to have its meaning shifted to its opposite in so short a time. and believe me, I have a lot in common with old gay nerds, it was more the pejorative tone and lack of helpfulness that rankled.
posted by jtron at 8:38 AM on March 7, 2011


Thanks, Plutor. I guess I always hear "indie rock" used in its sense of "rock music released on independent labels if not self-released;" the phrase doesn't tell me a lot about the sound, though, and it's pretty strange to have its meaning shifted to its opposite in so short a time. and believe me, I have a lot in common with old gay nerds, it was more the pejorative tone and lack of helpfulness that rankled.

At this point "indie rock" refers more to the kind of pants the band is wearing than anything concrete about their music.
posted by nasreddin at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


it was more the pejorative tone and lack of helpfulness that rankled.

Sorry, none intended. I know the old sense of the word has hung on a lot longer in America. I'm 28 and Irish and I've never known a time when 'indie' didn't mean 'guitar music that's not punk or metal'. When I was growing up The Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Oasis, Blur, etc. were all just 'indie' irrespective of what percentage of Creation Records was owned by Sony etc.
posted by kersplunk at 9:21 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


the problem is the word "Indie". Note the capitol "I".

Back in the day when independent music truly began to the take off (early 1980s), the term was just that: "independent", because though much of it was punk and/or new wave, some of it wasn't ... so "independent" became the clear, all encompassing term for pretty much anything that was either self-released, or released by a small concern that was NOT one of an ever shrinking handful of MAJOR LABELS.

But then the likes of Stone Roses, Primal Scream hit in the late 80s, early 90s, along with things like SUB-POP in the USA, and all the related and various bands who just didn't "sound" like mainstream rock ... and some genius in marketing decided that Indie was the right term (and not just because it linked a bunch of common sounds, but because it was cool-hip word that suggested a certain fierce and rebellious and stoic intention of "going-it-alone", which of course, the mainstream Indie bands were not and are not doing).

So yeah, I despise the co-option of a damned fine word by money grubbing haters of culture far more than ever I could the Decemberists.
posted by philip-random at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


What kind of pants are those? At 34 I'm finding myself on the nostalgia curve where clothes I've had for years are coming back "in." got a pair of pants at a clothing swap; they are womens' pants from a Mom Jeans company yet are identical in cut to these hardcore/rave pants I had in the mid 90s
posted by jtron at 9:53 AM on March 7, 2011


"How many songs with women protagonists did Frank Sinatra have?"

Yeah, because ol' blue eyes was a feminist first and foremost. You might as well pretend that Jagger's "Stupid Girl" was really a critique of misogyny.

"the problem is the word "Indie". Note the capitol "I". "

The proper term for the Decemberists is "schmindie," or more accurately, "schmindie-shanties."

And let's close this out with some ironic folk tales from GG Allin, I Wanna Rape You (which YouTube pairs with featured I'm A Mormon ads), and I Kill Everything I Fuck.

It's important to note that all of the characters in GG Allin songs meet bad ends.
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The Brigands' cover of "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is better than the original"

I didn't much like the studio version either but the one at the end of this live set on KCRW is awesome, and still on my mp3 player. They "did it super-fast" to (almost) fit it in.
posted by Manjusri at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2011


The only Decemberists song worth a damn.

I have spoken. Again!
posted by Decani at 12:36 PM on March 7, 2011


I like songs that tell little stories."

You need to listen to
Josh Ritter, then.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:53 PM on March 7, 2011


Quote fail. Sigh.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:53 PM on March 7, 2011


How many songs with women protagonists did Frank Sinatra have?

How many times did Sinatra sing about women being raped? How many did he sing as a male protagonist who was a rapist? Men hardly ever sing as female protagonists, I get it. Which is why it's interesting to see what subjects they pick when they do.

As Solon and Thanks has pointed out, Meloy never takes the p.o.v. of a female victim, only of a male attacker, male victim, or reports as a narrator on the women. It's an interesting silence in the body of his work, and one worth talking about even if people are offended by a criticism of a band/lyricist they love.

And I have listened to Decemberists albums. But not closely, I'll admit, because Meloy's voice is annoying and I felt that he kept harping on about rape too damn much. There's so much other music out there to listen to that I moved on until seeing this FPP.

Rape is often a lazy way for writers to traumatise a fictional female character. It happens a lot in genre fiction too.
posted by harriet vane at 9:37 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


harriet vane: "Men hardly ever sing as female protagonists, I get it. [...] Meloy never takes the p.o.v. of a female victim, only of a male attacker, male victim, or reports as a narrator on the women."

So you're okay with him not singing from the point of view of a woman, and then you're not okay with it?
posted by Plutor at 8:51 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry to add one more datapoint to the indie derail (and the knee-jerk anti-hipster glares I'll get for linking to Pitchfork) but this is a good, ruminative essay on how indie became the catch-all genre it has become, supplanting its original connotations.

Back to the thread: asking as a non-Decemberist listener, do any of the songs that include rape ever give 3rd person agency to the female victims a la I Spit On Your Grave, thus avoiding the need for the singer to adopt the female voice? If their lyrics do linger on the nastier side of life, it would seem to fit the theme.
posted by Chichibio at 4:22 PM on March 8, 2011


So you're okay with him not singing from the point of view of a woman, and then you're not okay with it?

Exactly. Meloy doesn't *have* to sing from the point of view of a woman, no-one does. But after he's sung half a dozen songs about women being raped, it starts to seem a bit cheap. He's keen to get all the drama of a rape story, but doesn't want to actually put himself in the shoes of a rape victim the way he does with other victims in his songs.

He has more rapey songs than most artists, and does it in a subtle but noticeably different way than the rest of his work. It gives us a nice plate of beans to consider.

Maybe he has a good artistic or personal reason for it, but since he hasn't offered one we can only speculate. Perhaps he's been raped and it's too close to home. Or he's struggling to write something that does the topic justice and doesn't want to release anything half-baked. But my own opinion is that he's kind of glib about rape, or hasn't actually considered it as anything that still happens and has happened to a significant percentage of his female fans. It comes across like he just thinks of it as plot fodder. It's not a crime to be glib about rape songs, but it's interesting to discuss.
posted by harriet vane at 6:00 AM on March 9, 2011


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