The Decemberists

Billy Liar EP

(Kill Rock Stars; 2004)

By Aaron Newell | 10 November 2004

"Billy Liar’s got his hands in his pock-eyits!” If it weren’t for the overarching, voyeuristic masturbatory theme, I could totally see all the kids from Peanuts dancing to this. “Billy Liar” and “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” are both so perfect that it’s a travesty it’s not already 2050 and classic radio stations aren’t playing them back-to-back on a daily basis. As long as Nostradamus’ pending earthquake hasn’t yet turned the line about “ocean’s garbled vomit on the shore” into something of questionable taste.

The two new songs on this packaged quadruplet are “Everything I Try To Do, Nothing Seems to Turn Out Right”---polished perfection--and “Sunshine”--one-take acoustic recorded charisma. Let me explain.

Colin Meloy seems to be able to chuck half-syllables of emotion into otherwise one-punch words. Nowhere else has this been more effective than when he pathetically coaxes, “We laid on our backs and stared at the ceiling / Messed with your slacks but ended up just holding up your haeyand.” A lonely, psychy prog organ opens as Meloy begins his soliloquy of unmerited self-deprecation. At the end of each line his voice accidentally echoes away--a simple, alluring symptom of the sparseness of the first 8 bars. The guitars strum in, but the listener can’t discern that this will be piping alt-country (with a too-slight psych bent) until the baritone steel-string sprouts up through the bottom. The song moves from the last minutes of a final date, to reminiscing about fun times spent, to watching the summer fling’s taxi’s lights fade out in the distance: “A wink and a wave and you’re off to your family…I guess I always thought it’d end this way.” It’s a heart-wrenching adolescent summer camp story set to some of the Decemberists’ finest production.