In late 2008, Decibully's two-years-in-the-making third album, "World Travels Fast," evolved from Milwaukee's own mini-"Chinese Democracy" to Milwaukee's own mini-"Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" when Polyvinyl nixed releasing the record and dropped the band. Decibully streamed the album online last December, and fans have spent most of 2009 wondering if, when, and how they'd ever get their paws on it. Now we have the answers: Yes; Today; and Listening Party Records, a vinyl and mp3 label formed by band members Nicolas Sanborn and Andrew Menchal that, one hopes, will not be dropping Decibully any time soon.
Under normal circumstances, one might also wonder if "World Travels Fast" would be worth the nearly five-year wait since 2005's "Sing Out America!" but the stream settled that question a year ago: "World Travels Fast" is, in a word, gorgeous, which is where any further Wilco or Fiona Apple comparisons break down. When you hear a band's unreleased album got it dropped from a label, you assume weirdness, experimentation that scares off the normals who just don't get it. That's not Decibully, and, having absolutely no further knowledge of the situation, I'd guess that their immediacy, their emotive accessibility is why an indie label whose roster includes of Montreal, Japandroids, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin suggested Decibully take their music elsewhere (N.B. I have never listened to Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. If Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin sound like Norah Jones, please remove Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin from the previous list).
You're going to "get" a Decibully album on first listen, and in a lot of indie rock circle these days, that's a bad thing for some reason. In fact, other than their lack of a proper label, there's nothing all that indie about Decibully. "World Travels Fast" continues the band's progression from from heart-on-their-sleeve emo pop to heart-on-their-sleeve widescreen rock. Not that Decibully ever sounded small, but listen to album opener "Broken Glass," six minutes of guitars shimmering so brightly you'll reach for your shades, then melting around William Seidel's heartbreaking falsetto, then charging ahead into "Live By the Lake," where "something we can't control" is unsettling Seidel's domestic bliss. On their previous records, Decibully might have adorned these songs with chimes, strings, flutes, and whatever else their multi-instrumentalists had in their trunks that day. This time the band swept away most of the clutter, leaving only aching guitars, ten gallon drums, and some of their most direct and deeply-felt music.
Recently I argued that the Strokes sound more like Albert Hammond, Jr. than Julian Casablancas. Decibully sound like Seidel, sometimes too much so on their first two records. Seidel doesn't just sing a song, he performs with Method investment, and when your instrument is that powerful you've gotta know when to hold back, and when to belt it out. Seidel has never sounded better than he does on “World Travels Fast,” partially because he's not competing for ear time with the band's usual bells and whistles, and partially because he's never modulated his performances this well. On “Don't Believe the Hype” Seidel delicately ruffles through the receipts for a typical McManision lifestyle -- idle hands, passed opportunities, a cool car, health insurance, new friends, and a trophy wife who "keeps you from feeling lonely" -- nudging the remorseful buyer out the door and back to his real life. Seidel sounds too hurt and exhausted to stand up to the pissed-off guitars on "Get in the Car," until that song crashes abruptly into the staccato punk of "Let's Not Fight," rousing Seidel to roll with the punches and save the relationship that's coming to blows. Even when the odd grace notes creep back in, such as the Theremin cameo on "Hour of Noise," Seidel keeps his cool and eases his voice into the song's weird darkness, coaxing a lover away from the decay outside the bedroom door with the kind of sad song he knows she can't resist.
My personal resistance to Decibully's charms kicked in around track 10. Forty minutes of Decibully goes a long way, and almost an hour is a lot, no matter whom you're listening to. Starting with the aptly-named “Prom Jam,” the last third of the album drifts off into pretty MOR, and could have benefited from the pruning that, one assumes, comes with working at a label that isn't run by your keyboardist. Decibully's earlier flirtations with country were far more successful than its detours to the jazz lounge on “Baby Mama” and “Weakest Kind of Heart,” both of which sound like Sting tracks (the solo artist, not the Police bassist) until the guitars finally kick in. While the slow-burning blues of “If I Don't Work” probably didn't need to simmer for over seven minutes, the song eventually builds to an arresting, anxious climax as Seidel curses the short weekend, his girl troubles, and the possibility that he might be “the last asshole” left in this dive bar on a Sunday night.
Fitting that Decibully end an album that spent the better part of two years in limbo with Seidel feeling alone, shuddering at an uncertain future. Having a record as strong as “World Travels Fast” on their hard drive must have brought the band some comfort during their struggle. “I just want to be inside of something beautiful,” yearns Seidel on “Somewhere in the World.” He is, and with “World Travels Fast” finally available to everyone, that beautiful something can only get bigger.
Joey Tayler is the lead writer on Rocksposure.com. Based out of Milwaukee, WI, he is always looking for a new show to see. If there is something you think he should be listening to, send him an email at JoeyT@Rocksposure.com
To learn more about Decibully and to hear a few tracks off of "World Travels Fast", Click here to head over to their Profile Page