by Tom Johnson
With The King Is Dead EP, The Decemberists add themselves to the small roster of bands who refused to “deluxify” their just-released albums in order to cash in on extra sales, counting instead on the strength of that previous album to drive listeners to pick up copies of the EP.
And, if they’re smart, they’ll do just that.
While it’s obvious why these six tunes didn’t warrant making the full-length album, they make for a typically satisfying Decemberists release in their own right. Where Long Live The King saw the band stretching into country-rock territory (and seemingly rewriting a couple REM classics along the way,) The King Is Dead finds the band mixing in material that is styled a little more familiar to long-time fans the band, like opening tune “E. Watson” and “Burying Davy,” but you may wonder what reason the band left “Foregone” and “I 4 U & U 4 Me” off Long Live The King, since they fit right in with the album’s more straight-ahead rock sound.
Closing out the EP is a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Row Jimmy,” which reveals an influence few may have picked up on before, and “Sonnet,” which may leave you longing to hear the band work a lot more with the horn section that rises at the end of the tune. It left me hitting play again on this all-too-short EP, a trait shared in common with its big-brother album from earlier in the year.