The Decemberists
Picaresque

Kill Rock Stars
2005
B+
Reviewed by: Josh Love
Reviewed on: 2005-03-21



Posted 03/21/2005 - 08:01:04 AM by BillyClyde:
 C'mon lads & lasses, let us all make sure we go and purchase our very own copy of this one. After losing their trailer, they need all the help they can get.
 
Posted 03/21/2005 - 10:24:20 AM by nhennies:
 Nice review, but what about the music on this record? Certainly there's more to this band than overly intellectual lyrics. They've made one of the best pop albums to come out in quite a while so it's a little dismissive for everyone to focus so much on the lyrics in favor of noticing the craft and skill with which these songs were written.
 
Posted 03/21/2005 - 11:01:48 AM by trigrrrcut:
 Actually I think not discussing the music makes it seem as though the only problem anyone has everhad with the decemberists has been the lyrics. As if no one questioned the quality of the band musically. Which is misleading as I know any number of people who think that the first two albums are a bit too flat. To those people I say that the band has really discovered their rythm section this time out, I swear.
 
Posted 03/21/2005 - 12:47:09 PM by hansel:
 I'm sort of nonplussed with this album. The lyrics are getting too weighty for the music. Three albums out and they're writing themselves into a corner: "that history band." I'd like to give it a second chance, even only to help out the van effort. They're really excellent live.
 
Posted 03/21/2005 - 02:45:46 PM by oldeirish800:
 Sure the lyrics, for some, may be hard to swallow. But the melodies that he is writing are fantastic, and thats why most people can look over the lyrics and the constant storytelling. The guy for the most part, is writing great pop songs, and thats why their music should be appreciated. If he can get these songs from reading too many books, well then read on my friend...I do enjoy the other two albums more, by the way. but ENGINE DRIVER kicks asssssssss
 
Posted 03/21/2005 - 05:01:39 PM by Legowombat:
 Wait a second... a songwriter is actually taking care and pride with his lyrical craft and is being criticised for it? A writer who can fit carefully observed, minutely detailed character studies into the restrictive structure of a pop song? A writer who has a gift for lyrical meter, alliteration, and imaginative imagery and feels no need to 'dumb it down' for mainstream acceptance? On top of all this, (despite the seemingly distancing effect of the archaic imagery), some songs manage to comment on the present at the same time? 'Sixteen Military Wives' seems to be the lone political song I've heard so far this year, at a time where you'd think more musicians should be screaming to the skies about it. And is it any surprise 'The Infanta' is released so soon after Bush's Inauguration? Yes, the lyrics are weighty. They drag you into the album, demand your attention and allow you to more easily enter the world these vignettes are creating. Thankfully at least one band is raising the level of lyrical discourse in pop music, otherwise we’ll end up in a world of nothing but “The Thong Song” and “Because I Got High”. Maybe I’m a lone dissenter here, but I’d much rather feel smarter for listening to a band. Besides all that, the music on this album really is a step forward from their previous work, and the band is *tight*. I guess all that touring is paying off.
 
Posted 03/21/2005 - 10:18:16 PM by intastella:
 Obtusely verbose or not (for the record, I'd say not), the lyrics on Picaresque are just the icing on top of the superb songs and instrumentation. The worst I was expecting to read in review of this album was some gushing hyperbole. At least it's album of the week.
 
Posted 03/23/2005 - 10:32:54 AM by Simon_H:
 My issue with this record is just the opposite as hansel: the lyrics, in a way, aren't weighty enough. This is Meloy's first album that includes a few caricatured clunkers, chief among them the laughable "Eli, the Barrow Boy" (folks, just *read the title* if you don't see what I mean) and the boring "For My Own True Love". Everyone seems to heap praise on "On the Bus Mall" and "Mariner's Revenge Song", two of the songs I have the biggest issues with. "On the Bus Mall" directly follows the excellent "Engine Driver", but unfortunately the two songs are, musically at least, annoyingly similar. I also find that Meloy deflates the considerable emotional impact the lyrics could have had when he notes that "I will not mourn for you" in the chorus. That's pretty cold, considering you "fused like a family" - and yeah, I know they're poor and it's a hard knock life and there's no time for compassion, but it doesn't feel right for the world the song has created. As for "Mariner", besides its musical issues (kinda plodding, and holy crap is the girl's voice on "there is one thing I must say to you..." grating as all hell), it lacks the dynamism of Meloy's best lyrics - contrast it with "Bagman's Gambit", where you have drama, sweep and genuine interest in the fate of the characters. In "Mariner", we have someone who wants revenge on someone else - quite rightfully - and gets that revenge. And...that's about it. Am I alone in finding that particular song annoyingly detached? Barring these issues, a solid album by most measures - even if "We Both Go Down Together" sounds exactly like "Losing My Religion".
 
Posted 03/23/2005 - 10:45:49 AM by Liarbythefire:
 Is it just me or does "The Sporting Life" sound like David Bowie singing "Lust For Life"? I haven't heard much of this album yet, but I noticed that thus far.
 
Posted 03/26/2005 - 01:43:00 PM by jmaxwell:
 I agree for the most part with Simon_H, though I think "On the Bus Mall" is pretty good. The trouble with this band is when Meloy, an excellent pop songwriter, forgets he's in a pop band, and starts writing musical theater. On "Her Majesty" its "The Chimney Sweep", which is forgivable because it's short, but here its the awful, grating "The Mariners Revenge Song." The melody is weak, the lyrics lack any sort of complexity, the female vocal part is painfully winking...the whole thing just drags down the entire album. If the Meloy wants to write musical theater, he should go for it, but not shoehorn it into an otherwise pretty good album.
 
Posted 04/09/2005 - 08:16:45 PM by erklie:
 Hmm, I'm kind of surprised by the amount of anti-intellectualism I've read in reference to Meloy's lyrics. Meloy seems to me to be one of the few indie rock songwriters who clearly puts a lot of time and effort into their lyrics (sorry Jack White). To be clear, by "a lot of time" I mean any amount that seems appropriate for someone whose profession is writing songs. I for one prefer listening to a lyricist with a passion for idiosyncratic language, as opposed to songwriters who churn out meaningless, clicheed garbage. Also, what's up with the hating on theatricality? Some of these criticisms remind me of people who think Tom Waits' post-70s albums are too theatrical. Oh no! Theater! The horror, the horror...