Everybody's heard the story. The Decemberists were a indie band from Portland, Oregon that had the nerve to do a concept album based on the ancient Irish epic The Tain. That was late 2004 and I, ever the intrepid Horslips fan I, went to see these upstarts at the Great American Music Hall.
And walked away with four of their early efforts.
But like Peter before the crowing cock, I denied them within the Horslips circle of fans and quietly muffled my own opinions that a great epic can have many versions and perhaps even needed one from an American band struggling to give voice to alternative viewpoints in the shadow of the early years of Iraq.
2007 found the Decemberists on a major label, with sell-out gigs at the Village in Dublin and at the Warfield in San Francisco, and on sale at the counters of Starbucks across the nation. That an album featuring the deeply chilling ballad "Shankill Butchers" could sit side by side with biscotti and half-dipped dark-chocolate madeleines of the Frappacinos and half-caf mochas of the world should surely be one of the year's signature moments.
I had the opportunity to hear Colin Meloy sing an acoustic version of this on KFOGs morning show. Romeo and Juliet in South Central. Same as it ever was...