Jun 15, 2005

decemberists - picaresque

I picked up The Decemberist's album "Picaresque" on the strength of 30 seconds of "We Both Go Down Together". It has a Gaelic sound to it but an incredibly catchy hook. After playing the album a few times, it's clear they are much more versatile than I suspected. Their sound moves about throughout the album but there's always an air of theatricality to each piece.

They move around so much that it takes a few comparisons to cover all the styles. There's definitely hints of the Violent Femmes a la "Hallowed Ground" (arguably the Femmes most prolific album) in The Decemberist's sense of storytelling. I hear tinges of fey pop along the lines of Blueboy's "Unisex" but never as fey. Perhaps some of Weezer's lightheartedness. There are times when I hear Red House Painters with their 'Charlie Brown trying to kick the football' angst but never as dour. Belle & Sebastian here and there. All are catchy tunes in their own right. They jam when they need to, they lighten up the tempo when needed, and they strip the music bare at the right spots.

The storytelling aspect is the icing. The liner notes feature mock theatre scenes re-enacting some of the songs. The leader singer Colin Meloy is quite the wordsmith too. I usually avoid lyrics of rock bands because they are typically cringeworthy. But Meloy is clearly talented in this area. In fact I would venture he's capable of writing a musical I would actually go to. Scratch that. I would never willingly go to a musical. But at least I'd think about it if he wrote it. Consider the album title alone - Picaresque - 'involving clever rogues or adventurers' (yes I had to look that up). The height of this theatricality is the 9 minutes "Mariner's Revenge Song" which is about... well you can guess what it's about.
We are two mariners, our ship's sole survivors
In this belly of a whale
Its ribs our ceiling beams, its guts our carpeting
I guess we have some time to kill

1 comment:

Tim said...

I saw The Decemberists live last night at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. If they ever come by you, don't miss them, because they were amazing.