Friday, July 6, 2007

The Decemberists - July! July!

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy the Decemberists. This is one of those times. I've gone months without listening to them, which is strange since back in March after seeing them live I was on a real Decemberists kick. I got to talk to Colin Meloy and Chris Funk briefly after the show- both were incredibly nice and actually interested in having a word with fans.

In terms of my favorite record of theirs, I'd have to go with Picaresque, their breakthrough album, however their last record The Crane Wife was fantastic and a great example a band of losing nothing creatively upon signing to a major label. I can't quite say the same for Death Cab for Cutie, who are friends and occasional producers (Chris Walla) of the band. This entry's song comes from neither of those albums and rather their excellent 2002 debut Castaways and Cutouts. It features the Decemberists trademark lyrical storytelling, this time revolving around an alleyways, or according to our narrator "a road that meets the road that goes to my house." He spouts off several tales (perhaps lit match proto-Are You Afraid of the Dark? style) that may or may not have occurred there in the past, from the murder of a gin smuggling French-Canadian, to a sexual conquest, to even and undisclosed event that led to a haunting by ghosts of dead chickens.

With especially that last aspect in mind, it's beneficial to all that Colin has commented on the song's meaning during an interview. He first clarifies that the house in the song was indeed real, based on an abandoned slaughterhouse in Portland where for a time was his summer crash pad.

"It was actually a slaughterhouse beforehand, and on the third floor there were troughs along the side... down the hallways where the blood would run. And then the troughs would actually lead to the outside, where it would pour off the side of the building, I swear to God.
So we assume that the house -- that the building was haunted by dead chickens ..."

Well...perhaps this is the catchiest song ever written about dead chicken ghosts. I'm posting here two versions of the song, the first the album version and the latter an in-studio live take performed earlier this year.

The Decemberists - July! July!

The Decemberists - July! July! (Live in-studio)

"There is a road that meets the road that goes to my house
And how the green grows there
And we've got special boots to beat the path to my house
And it's careful, and it's careful when I'm there

And I say your uncle was a crooked French Canadian
And he was gut-shot running gin
And how his guts were all suspended in his fingers
And how he held 'em, how he held 'em, held 'em in

Atnd the water rolls down the drain
The water rolls down the drain
Oh, what a lonely thing
In a lonely drain

July, July, July
It never seemed so strange

This is the story of the road that goes to my house
And what ghosts there do remain
And all the troughs that run the length and breadth of my house
And the chickens, how they rattle chicken chains

And we'll remember this when we are old and ancient
Though the specifics might be vague
And I'll say, "Your camisole was a sprightly light magenta"
When, in fact, it was a nappy bluish grey

And the water rolls down the drain
The blood rolls down the drain
Oh, what a lonely thing
In a blood red drain

July, July, July
It never seemed so strange"

July! July! Live at Coachella

The Decemberists - Castaways & Cutouts @Kill Rock Stars

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