The Voice vs. The Decemberists

Taynted Love by Chris Ott, who apparently doesn’t appreciate Colin Meloy: “In the past, the Decemberists’ 17th-century laments were merely soaked in solecism—coy cunning from a clever aesthete with a woodcut fetish who’d seen Rushmore too many times. But Meloy is increasingly emboldened by success, becoming more and more literal. You get the sense he scans encyclopedias for his cautionary chides, casually selecting tales famous as the boogeyman in their native lilt and fashioning them into cuddly Wes Anderson pirouettes, an indefensible, objectifying condescension born of bravado and ignorance.”

It’s all fun and games until your girlfriend posts in the comments… Doh!

MP3: “The Engine Driver” from the last one. And you can stream a couple from the new one.

7 thoughts on “The Voice vs. The Decemberists”

  1. I could be wrong about this, since I can barely understand the thesaurus-flexing that Ott passes off as writing, but isn’t he accusing Meloy of doing the exact same thing he’s doing? That is — take your career too seriously, adapt a subtly elitist pose (though Ott’s pose is far less subtle), over-intellectualize yourself?

    Honestly, he didn’t talk about the show at all! How did this get published? He used a concert as means for a personal attack. And he claims it wasn’t a personal attack, and then says this in the comments:

    “Don’t delude yourselves that this piece or my distaste is somehow a “personal” thing – my disbelief in your act is shared by a lot of people, many less invested in the music world than I am. Is it that you’re pissed I used “solecism” before you could work it into your next EP? Or did Capitol already send you the pink slip? I thought they were waiting until March to clean house…”

    That sounds like a pretty direct insult to me. Seriously. As far as his actual opinion, I get a different feeling from Colin. One of the reasons I love seeing the Decemberists live is because I get an immense feeling of gratification from Colin and appreciation that he is where he is. But that’s just me. Then there’s this:

    “Tonight demarcates the other side of the hipster spectrum: the familiar world of self-pitying white people looking for reasons to be unhappy, or at least suspicious, despite incalculable birthright advantages.”

    How can this sentence possibly apply to a concert that featured three orchestrated sing-alongs and a dance contest?

    And, finally:

    “So much of this band’s image is based on winking deprecation of this sort, painting them as inauspicious, honest artists forced into the commercial arena, but the truth is the Decemberists take their career in rock very seriously.”

    I don’t think this is what the band’s image is at all. Of course they take their career in rock seriously — any band that is as thoughtful of melodies, lyrics, instrumentation, and production as the Decemberists are obviously cares about the product. And that’s not a bad thing.

  2. Oh, you know it Jake.

    I mean, I’d be offended no matter who this review was about, because it’s a bad (not to mention misinformed and contradictory) review. The fact that it’s one of my favorite bands does nothing but ramp up the hate.

    But, seriously: this man accuses Meloy of his pretentiousness by using phrases like “Wes Anderson pirouettes” and “dilettante dalliances”?

  3. There was another case like this where some band member’s girlfriend wrote the Voice in response to a shitty review (both in the sense of the writing quality and the appreciation of the group), and apparently the reviewer knew the band or was from the same town. Did I fall upon that from a GloNo link? Does anyone remember it? Is there a relation to the numerous layoffs they had? Maybe only hacks will work under the current conditions? Just asking.

  4. I like the Decemberists AND I also find Meloy’s affectations and artifice a bit hard to take. So taking the piss out of the Decemberists in some ways would be fine–I can enjoy the band AND the piss-taking. But for fuck’s sake, they’re ENTERTAINMENT (or is it ENTER”TORN”MENT, Chris Ott?).

    This reviewer is a world-class douchebag in so many senses of the word, except of course the literal, because he’s probly never…ahem, anyway. How do I know? I used the same crystal ball Ott did to divine Meloy’s motivations!

    (Speaking of douches, anyone catch Christgau chiming in from the ether?)

    What sort of demented fucknut goes to see a concert of a band he doesn’t even like?

    Then, to presume to use a pseudo-concert review to give a “lesson” in pre-X-tian Celtic literature, Gaelic pronunciation, Irish heritage…wow. What’s the next step beyond “pretentious?” Surely Ott would know–after all, he brags to Meloy of his pre-emptive use of a 2-dollar vocabulary word.

    A sad, jealous wannabe.

  5. I’ve gotta admit: I enjoyed the review almost as much as I’m (still) enjoying the hubbub.

    All my rockcrit heroes (Bangs, Meltzer, Tosches) have used pretentious windbaggery to skewer pretentious windbags. But that’s the thing: a certain level pretense is fine in writing/journalism/criticism, but it’s almost never acceptable in rock and roll.

    And remember: something’s only pretentious if its sense of importance is exaggerated. If its ambitions are actually fulfilled, then it’s fine!

    But to criticize a writer for not doing what you want them to be doing (be it “Just review the show, dude” or “Just sing songs about Montana, you fag”) shows a severe lack of imagination. The best stuff (music or writing or art or whatever) always transcends the obvious subject matter.

    I know it’s only rock and roll (but I like it).

  6. Ah, but Ott fails as well, you might say by treating the Decemberists and their precious tics too importantly. Thus, he falls into the common rock crit trap of “pretentious twit.”

    I enjoy the hoopla too, and like a nerd just begging to be pantsed, the Decemberists don’t get enough crap!

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