Pantalooned scalawag that he fancies himself, Decemberists’ frontman Colin Meloy isn’t above (or below) the occasional hyper-urbanism. Early on, there’s a “mohawked man pointing an extended finger . . . at my grandfather and I.” Three pages later, Meloy deals his highfalutin parlance yet another blow: “He asked my sister and I . . . ” Is indie rock’s favorite fable maker being picaresque, or just getting caught with his knickers down?

Willed or not, Meloy seems vulnerable in Let It Be, the 16th entry of 33 1/3’s essays on really important albums series. The books typically boast chip-on-shoulder critical rigor; by contrast, Meloy reduces Let It Be to a small but crucial role in his own coming-of-age memoir. First recounting his purchase of the album as a grade-schooler, Meloy then concentrates on his punky, homoerotic adolescence in corn-fed, homophobic Montana. In each anecdote, Let It Be plays deus ex machina, swooping down to rescue the young Meloy from his identity crises. These are solid short-short stories with bona fide epiphanies—that they shed light on Meloy’s past only makes them more engaging.

Did I forget to mention that Let It Be is a pretty good ’80s rock record by the Replacements? For however much the ‘Mats meant to Meloy, Let It Be‘s musical merits and the band’s ungoogleable history—save a tacked-on fictionalized explanation for the album’s cover art—don’t seem to interest him that much. Before it’s Art, it’s Meloy’s. Replacements fans will retch at that thought, Decemberistas will salivate, and fans of both should try Valproate.

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