THE DECEMBERISTS I’ll Be Your Girl gets 7/10

The Decemberists
I’ll Be Your Girl


The Decemberists are cheeky buggers! After being out of the public eye for three years, the Portland quintet reappeared with a synth-driven track Severed that was so far removed from their previous lit-folk that it’s first impression was more shock than awe. The excuse for this shift was said to be due to being holed up in the studio with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans) and had the The Decemberists tipping their hat to New Order.

With the release of the accompanying full length album, the joke is firmly on those who believed all the spin, as I’ll Be Your Girl is chock full of the larger than life folk rock that the band have been delivering since their inception. To be sure, opener All My Life has layers of synths underpinning the song’s rich textures, but it is the acoustic guitar and bold Colin Meloy voice and melody that drive the band’s ascension to stadium appeal. Cutting Stone finds them back in familiar territory as they spin a tale of murder, with the story of yore also given a dose of the present thanks to its expansive instrumentation.

Meloy has always been a revered lyricist, yet when faced with the turmoil of post 2016 Presidential Election (which he cites as the inspiration for much of the album), he trots out a trite Everything Is Awful which glosses over the mayhem without either rage or humour. We All Die Young doesn’t fare a lot better as it pulls from glam rock tendencies, has a discordant saxophone that is better forgotten and a children’s choir that sound like they were lifted without rehearsal from a school assembly.

The Decemberists are at their best when they aren’t abiding by the rules of a pop song, and they again show they are masters of prose with the Rusalka, Rusalka/Wild Rushes which pulls two opposing soundscapes into one sinister tale.

I’ll Be Your Girl is the most ambitious album by The Decemberists for some time. They are a band that are somewhere between the mainstream and the underground and I’ll Be Your Girl does spend moments in this ‘nowhereland’. When not trying to be too clever for its own good, it has some ripping tunes to offer.