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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Drive-By Truckers -- Decoration Day

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8/10

The Drive-By Truckers follow their breakout, Southern Rock Opera, with another great rock album. Decoration Day kicks off with a song about the only two people in America currently serving prison time for incest, eases naturally into a song about a land-losing farmer who fantasizes about murdering the banker taking everything from him, then glides into an angry, but optimistic jam about life on the road. Decoration Day continues to explore the complexities of life in the South, but does it with more of a contemporary and less of a historical edge than its predecessor. With that said, Decoration Day contains Drive-By Truckers first track that should end up in the greatest songs of all time bank, "My Sweet Annette," a tale about a surprise elopement in the 1930's. Everything about the song is perfect, from the O Henry-level storytelling skills Patterson Hood displays, to the complex, but relatively chilled out musical accompaniment the rest of the band provides.

"My Sweet Annette" is followed by "Outfit," a decent debut track by new member Jason Isbell, and then FOUR STRAIGHT breakup songs from frontmen Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. I don't mean "boo-hoo, my girlfriend just left me songs," I mean, "We are getting a divorce, I just wasted years of my life, and I want to die" songs.  These are all great, particularly the more delicate, self-reflective "Heathens," but by the time they are over, the listener is pretty exhausted. Unfortunately, these tracks are followed by three suicide songs. They aren't bad songs (two of them are actually up-tempo), but the album could have ended with "Your Daddy Hates Me," and felt tight and complete. The opening seconds of the title track cure this malaise, though. "Decoration Day," Jason Isbell's second contribution, is an excellent song in the vein of the Grangerford and Sheperdson blood-feud in Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The three-guitar attack of the final minute of the song makes a pretty convincing argument that no other band out there could do anything like this half as well.

The album closes with Mike Cooley's "Loaded Gun in the Closet," a subtle, acoustic guitar and pedal-steel song that leaves the meaning of the titular weapon open to interpretation. Thus ends the Drive-By Truckers flawed, but brilliant fourth album.

2003 New West Records
1. The Deeper In 3:15
2. Sink Hole 3:26
3. Hell No, I Ain't Happy 4:38
4. Marry Me 5:39
5. My Sweet Annette 3:51
6. Outfit 4:04
7. Heathens 4:47
8. Sounds Better in the Song 4:08
9. (Something's Got To) Give Pretty Soon 3:38
10. Your Daddy Hates Me 6:40
11. Careless 2:07
12. When the Pin Hits the Shell 4:10
13. Do It Yourself 3:20
14. Decoration Day 5:47
15. Loaded Gun in the Closet 5:13

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