16 Military Wives
Rough Trade Records
RTRADSCD271 and 7" single RTRADS271
Released 21st November 2005
In a distant world, not completely similar to our own, a wondrous event is set to take place. By royal decree, the entire population has been ordered to down tools for a week. It would be unthinkable to miss it…and quite possibly a capital crime.
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In an excited yet orderly fashion, millions of strangely attired, oddly beautiful people are making their way to the coast. Portlandia – that is the name of this land, is to witness the homecoming concert by it's greatest musical heroes, The Decemberists.
Once the population has gathered and set up camp along the miles of beautiful white sand, a huge platform is constructed from driftwood and smooth boulders, fastened with oiled ropes, and lit with naptha lamps and polished shells. The stage is set. Watchers in hot air balloons float high above the beach, telescopes at the ready, each hoping for the honour of being first to spot Colin Meloy's Galleon 'Picaresque', appearing on the horizon.
After days of waiting, the crowd is in a state of near rebellion. Rumours that the ship has been swallowed by a whale are discovered to be the work of Beaumont, the notorious enemy agent, who is apprehended while trying to escape in an inflatable dinghy. His pleas for mercy and diplomatic immunity are ignored, and within seconds, a spit is inserted through his porcine body and a fire lit beneath it; the delicious crispy slices of roasted flesh bringing more joy and nourishment to the world than his living being ever did.
Then, as if on cue, white sails are spotted. A cheer goes up, growing to a roar, increasing to a din. Boats row out, swimmers take to the waves. The battered yet magnificent ship anchors off the reef, and the King's own landing craft brings The Decemberists ashore. The concert begins.
The record that you have before you '16 Military Wives' is the first song they played on this momentous day. It's opening bars were strangely reminiscent of Mungo Jerry's 'In the Summertime', which immediately put the crowd into dancing mood. Lyrically, it was dense and rich - just what these intelligent literate people loved. It's orchestrations were enormous and elaborate. All kinds of brass and strings, hurdy gurdy, concertinas and mandolins exploding like glorious baroque fireworks of sound. It's chorus was so vast that at first, some people feared it. Of course, they soon came to love it, and by the final encore, they'd come to worship it.
In our world of course, we have U2, Coldplay and 50 Cent to enchant us. We need global sentiments, easy to understand lyrics and power chords to draw out our deep emotions. This suits most people.
Maxi CD Single -
1. 16 Military Wives
2. The Kingdom Of Spain
Side One - 16 Military Wives
Side Two - From My Own True Love (Demo)
Official Site -