Meloy at ABC, glasgow in 2007

More on the Decemberists

Again, an unrelated post to the RSAMD, but I hope you’ll indulge me…

I’ve been listening to lots of Decemberists songs at the moment; particularly, for some reason, The Gymnast, High Above the Ground (it stuck in my head after Saturday’s gig). I love this song, from the gentle guitar riff at the beginning, through the gradually building instrumentation, to its churning, climactic chorus of

Through the tarlatan holes
You’ve been slipping, been slipping away (la-de-dum-dum)
And the weather will hold
It’s been ever so, ever so gray (la-de-dum-dum)

But here as we’re coming down
And we’re sounding out:
it’s a terrible, terrible tide
As it lights upon your eye

But there on the motorway,
Reeks of marmalade
It’s a chemical, chemical kind
As it lights upon your eye
Lights upon your eye

The final repetitions of ‘April marches on’ are accompanied by lovely violin solo – some very good writing. Wish I was a session musician (*hints to any bands that need a viola player*)

I’ve been musing about what is this song is about… To me it suggests time passing (reference to the season of spring, and we know the Decemberists are fond of seasons: their song titles include July, July!, June hymn, January Hymn, and Summersong). But the reference to a ‘bosun’ (a phonetic spelling of boatswain, defined by wikipedia as ‘an unlicensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship’), compasses and lighthouses suggests a naval theme. I don’t even know whether Tarlatan is a word… (edit: just looked it up and it means ‘a thin, stiff, open-weave muslin’ – sort of shroud-like, maybe?)

Anyway, that’s enough pseudo-literary lyric interpretation! Although if you’re interested and have got this far down, here’s a very interesting interview with Colin Meloy on the album The Crane Wife and his inspirations and influences in general. The Decemberists are sometimes described as “literary pop” and you can see why from this interview.

Meloy at ABC, glasgow in 2007

Meloy at ABC, glasgow in 2007

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