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The Decemberists - Picaresque CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

3.61 | 75 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Not quite at the level of their debut, this, THE DECEMBERISTS' third album, does not go in the direction the progger would have hoped after the release of the superb 18-minute 'The Tain'. This album is a collection of folk-rock songs, with equal emphasis on folk and rock. Some songs rock, some tickle. But say one thing for COLIN MELOY, say he's got something to say!

There are some standout tracks here. The opener, 'The Infanta', is perhaps the best song on the album, sharp, clean and weighty. It is followed by something sounding like THE WATERBOYS, all fiddles and pop beats, overlaid by MELOY's awkward voice. Actually, that's one of the bugs (read 'features') of this album: MELOY's vocals are at their most brittle and least processed here. Nasal, irritating and often almost spoken. But, paradoxically, this allows him to communicate real emotion in songs like 'Eli, The Barrow-Boy' and 'From My Own True Love' - though I suspect many listeners will find them almost unlistenable.

Other outstanding tracks include the sad narrative 'The Bagman's Gambit' and the understated 'The Mariner's Revenge Song'. I also enjoy '16 Military Wives', as much for the startlingly rich imagery as the splendid music. Some of the other songs fall flat for me: 'The Sporting Life', for example, has a great premise, but that annoying beat (what hit song was it stolen from?) just doesn't sustain the track, and why sit with the beat alone for bar after bar in the middle of the song?

In the end, the major flaw on this record is the thinness of the music. At times this sounds like a MELOY solo project, with the rest of THE DECEMBERISTS reduced to little more than spectators. Thankfully, this was rectified on future releases.

russellk | 3/5 |


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