The Decemberists – I'll Be Your Girl

The Portland band replace their lutes with synths on an album with some great moments; however, the hodgepodge of styles ultimately results in an unbalanced and disjointed record

Album Review by Finbarr Bermingham | 12 Mar 2018
  • The Decemberists – I'll Be Your Girl
Album title: I'll Be Your Girl
Artist: The Decemberists
Label: Rough Trade
Release date: 16 Mar

Over two decades, The Decemberists have plumbed the depths of history, literature and lore to produce a stellar catalogue of narrative-led, theatrical folk rock music. On album number eight, however, they’ve laid down their lutes and cancelled their Smithsonian membership, exploring a more diverse palette of sounds, with mixed results.

Unlike previous Decemberists records, there’s no single concept at play, musically or lyrically. There’s menacing, macabre Depeche Mode-style electro pop (Severed) jostling with warm, fuzzy 70s-blues rock (Sucker’s Prayer), and both work well as individual tracks.

Through the middle section of the record, the offensively glam We All Die Young and lyrically shallow Everything is Awful are disappointing: the latter is the antithesis of what we’ve come to expect from the bookish, lyrically vibrant Colin Meloy, while the former skirts too close to gang show territory for comfort.

Cutting Stone, meanwhile, is one of the finest songs the band has produced in years. The introduction of a synthesizer and drum machine transforms what would have been a time-worn Decemberists folk track into an other-worldly sci-fi romp. It shows that while the band need not be caught in a stylistic time warp, nor should Meloy forget that he’s one of modern music’s great raconteurs.

There’s been a sense over recent records that the band have tried to rein in their proggier sensibilities, becoming more concise and radio-friendly in the process. And while half of the tracks here would make for decent singles, the hodgepodge of styles ultimately results in an unbalanced and disjointed album.

Listen to: Cutting Stone, Rusalka, Rusalka / The Wild Rushes, Sucker's Prayer