(Colin Meloy/Jenny Conlee/Chris Funk/John Moen/Nate Query)
Always the Bridesmaid: Volume I
If nothing else, we owe a debt of gratitude to Colin Meloy for his valiant attempt to reintroduce the clause "if that really is your name" back into the national lexicon.
In its way, "Valerie Plame" is not that different from a few of the songs on the Decemberists' breakthrough record, 2005's Picaresque. It's a tale of intrigue and espionage gone terribly wrong, and in this it's a logical sequel to "The Bagman's Gambit." But it also follows the lead of the superb "16 Military Wives" in attaching Meloy's melodramatic and antiquated language to current events. Pitchfork calls it "unbearably smug." Sure, but what Decemberists song isn't?
You'd be foolish to attempt to determine Meloy's genuine feelings toward Plame from the song--they're not in there. Instead, he creates a character, no more or less real than the Ancient Mariner or the Engine Driver or any of his other characters, and writes a five-minute eulogy for her. It's the saddest carnival you've ever heard, and by the time it breaks into full Paul McCartney mode at the end, it's stuck in your head forever.