The Decemberists

I’ll Be Your Girl

Capitol

Mar 14, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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The Decemberists' allure has always been their ability to sweep the listener away from the doldrums of everyday life into an enchanting universe where old-world characters merged with new-world musical motifs. But you may have noticed this recipe wearing a bit thin as the last two albums saw the band plodding through well-worn conventions and the imaginative songwriting that was their calling card showed a moderate decline.

It seems as though The Decemberists may have felt this way as well. Working in a new studio and with a different producer (John Congleton), singer and main songwriter Colin Meloy says "We wanted to free ourselves from old patterns and give ourselves permission to try something different." That something different is purported to be an influence of early glam à la Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. But remember, this is The Decemberists we're talking about, so the more things change, the more they remain the same.

I'll Be Your Girl is far from a glam rock opus. There is still plenty of the artistic and whimsical folk-rock, and familiar themes of tragedy and despair, proving The Decemberists have not abandoned the genuine sounds that graced their previous albums and won fans over. Only this time out they've circled back to the more focused and sonically dense style employed on The Crane Wife and The Hazards of Love, but with a definite slant towards '80s synth pop.

Opener "Once In My Life" proves they haven't shaken their Morrissey/Smiths influence either. With his signature warble, Meloy sings: "Oh for once in my life, could just something go right?" as a bright synth melody provides some contrast. But it's the single "Severed" that best represents the new direction. With an electrified bass beat, arpeggio synth loop, and super-charged guitar leads, it represents everything that is great about The Decemberists' ability to create dynamic and entertaining rock. "Your Ghost" and "We All Die Young" also take the path less traveled. The former is a quick-paced, keyboard-heavy romp with Beatles-esque vocal stylings while the latter explores a scuzzy funk sound complete with saxophone solo and a sing-along chorus.

I'll Be Your Girl may not be an unquestionable expression of their glam rock influences or even be their best work, but it's nice to see The Decemberists have stepped outside their comfort zone and reached back a bit to reconnect with their daring and adventurous ways without losing their distinctive charm. (www.decemberists.com)

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