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The Decemberists - Picaresque CD (album) cover

PICARESQUE

The Decemberists

 

Prog Folk

3.60 | 54 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars From this introduction to the Decemberists, I cannot account for their presence on progarchives any more than I could endorse the inclusion of veteran eclectic folk rockers like Steeleye Span, The Men they Couldn't Hang, the Pogues, Oysterband and Runrig. (For the record, I think Lindisfarne does belong here). We're talking well written and produced British isles inflected folk rock with various American pop influences, and nary a first-hand progressive reference.

When I try to compare Picaresque to the offerings of bands that came before, I come up with the list above as well as other fine ensembles that are also not usually mentioned in the same sentence as progressive - REM, Ocean Blue and Levellers to name a few. So, that said, this is still a cracklin' good piece of work. The band knows how to fortify and layer folk music. The use of traditional instrumentation is augmented by horns on songs like "16 military wives" which is immediately infectious and also grows on the listener. Meloy's penchant for clever yet down to earth lyrics is exposed time and again, and works best in the company of melodic, sparse yet full acoustic tracks like "We Both Go Down Together", "Eli, The Barrow Boy", and the transcendent "The Engine Driver". However, "The Sporting Life" really steals the show, reminding me that, yes I do like music I can dance to. Add a cutting message gently delivered and I am smitten and never far from the repeat button.

The closing tracks fully betray the band's heavy weighting towards folk rock in spite of their considerable length. They are mostly verse and chorus dominated and, while "On The Bus Mall" is very enjoyable, they both lack the bold panache of prog. Picaresque is a fine effort and certainly one of my favourites of the last few years. I'm pleased to see such a talented and insightful group become so popular in a style that typically doesn't shed a lot of windfalls. It's not a 5 star effort because I've heard most of these ideas before, but, considering British (or British sounding) folk rock with a sprinkling of punk attitude is a weakness of mine, I heartily welcome new family members, especially in darkest December(or January).

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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