The Decemberists “Sixteen Military Wives”

The DecemberistsArtist:
Aaron Stewart
Add Date:
April 1, 2005


Greetings, everyone. It’s Andy Gesner and the staff from HIP Video Promo. We’re excited to be working with a group whose recordings have become an essential part of the mandatory listening for anybody who considers themselves a hyper-literate indie rocker. We’re referring, of course, to The Decemberists – the band that can slip the words “bombazine” and “tarlatan” in their lyrics and still shake listeners in their shoes with gorgeous melodies and impeccable songcraft.

It’s no secret that we’re fond of brainy groups over here, and The Decemberists never disappoint us. Here’s a group that seems to draw with ease from Roald Dahl and penny dreadfuls, British music hall, potboilers and mysteries, Edward Gorey prints, and Victorian literature. Her Majesty, their brilliant 2003 release, opened with a pirate story, and closed with the ultimate drama-queen anthem (the unforgettable “I Was Meant For The Stage”). Bouncing between those two poles were indie pop songs about gymnastics, chimney sweeps, masturbation, Bee Season author Myla Goldberg, homoeroticism in the wartime trenches, and Los Angeles. When The Decemberists followed up Her Majesty with an eighteen-minute prog-rock interpretation of the Irish national epic (The Tain EP), intellectuals and indie-popsters all over the world swooned with amazement.

Picaresque, the newest album, will keep us swooning. If it’s a bit less backward-looking than its predecessors were, it definitely contains enough stories about street urchins and male prostitutes to populate a collection of bawdy 19th Century verse. But lead singer and songwriter Colin Meloy clearly has his eye on contemporary headlines, too.”Sixteen Military Wives” is a condemnation of both American arrogance and the shallowness of celebrity reaction to international intervention. Blithely black-humored and typically graphic, Meloy’s story is fitted to a brassy indiepop arrangement and the full battery of the Decemberists’ orchestration. The chorus is huge enough to stop a marauding general in his tracks, and memorable enough to introduce this indiepop collective to a mass audience.

But no matter how popular The Decemberists become, it’s unlikely that Meloy – a man who once wrote a love song to a bicycle – will ever lose touch with the freaks and geeks who identify so strongly with his protagonists. That’s apparent on Picaresque, an album that prominently features both a boarding-school athletics horror story (“The Sporting Life”) and an impossibly literary nautical revenge epic (“The Mariner”). And the video for “Sixteen Military Wives” finds the band participating in that most nerdy of all high-school activities: the model United Nations.

Replete with grounding subtitles – the Decemberists take any opportunity to sneak in a few extra words – the very funny video is shot in a suburban academy with high ceilings and exposed brick, big square windows, bearded instructors, and students dressed in ill-fitting uniforms. In the Decemberists’ academy, students take gym in their argyles, and Meloy is the king of the linoleum-floored halls. Here he represents America in the mock U.N., and he takes the license to behave badly – imposing lunchroom “sanctions” on an unpopular rep, and “finding” hidden weapons (a slingshot) in his locker. When the rest of the world turns on Meloy, they do so with vengeance, and leave him, like Sam Lowry in Brazil, stranded in a heap of crumpled paper.

It’s always a treat to work with Slim Moon and the fine crew at Kill Rock Stars. We’ll have an ample stock of Picaresque CDs for giveaways, and we’ll be able to set you up for video IDs and interviews while the band is on tour. If you need more info call Andy Gesner at 732-613-1779, or email You can also visit, to find out more about The Decemberists.

Visit Kill Rock Stars Visit The Decemberists
Visit Kill Rock Stars Visit The Decemberists