Grade: A-/B+ but A+ for the liner notes and overall message
Release date: March 16, 2018
The title I’ll Be Your Girl, coming from a male-dominated but obviously feminist band, is perhaps the best nomenclature The Decemberists could have chosen; the album itself leaves you with a feeling of uneasy powerfulness, and the title does the same. I’ll Be Your Girl distinctly reminds me of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild soundtrack — not necessarily in sound or even genre, although they aren’t dissimilar — but in that ultimate feeling of happy existential dread.
Even without seeing the movie (SPOILER ALERT: in which Emile Hirsch runs away from home, goes “into the wild,” suffers incredibly…..and then dies), Into the Wild, with Vedder’s raspy crooning and up-beat tempos, leaves you feeling like you can try and try and try, but ultimately you’ll fail, but you might as well try anyway because there’s nothing better to do. It’s the feeling you get on a sunny day: wonderment and awe, with a side of knowing it won’t last.
When Into the Wild came out, I’d never heard anything like it, and I didn’t expect to again, but The Decemberists brought me joy again.
Within 10 seconds of the first track, “Once in My Life,” I knew I was going to love this album. An upbeat, folksy, and honest tune, “Once in My Life” circles around the same three or four lines — “oh, for once in my life / could just something go right” — for about 85 percent of the song, somehow without becoming boring, only to turn at the end to “lay us down / beside the river / face down / beside the river.” Hope, meet death.
Surprisingly — and I say “surprisingly” not because it’s odd, but because I have no idea how they pulled it off — most songs follow this pattern. The songs severely center around the titular words, from track one and track two, “Cutting Stone,” to track five, “Tripping Along,” all the way down to the last track and namesake, “I’ll Be Your Girl,” but don’t get old and trite. It’s like they decided to make shitty pop lyric forms great again (pun intended; click the link at the top of the article).
Really, the only song that doesn’t follow this theme is “Sucker’s Prayer,” which intones, “I wanna love somebody but I don’t know how.” Honestly, nuff said.
The stand-out track for me, though, is track seven, “Everything is Awful.” While I can’t help but secretly be reminded of The Lego Movie, the track itself is incredible. Potentially the most upbeat of the 11-track album, it nails that feeling you get when everything is just laughably bad; the president is a moron, and our country just can’t seem to get it together, so we just have to laugh or we’d all probably crawl into holes and suck our thumbs until we cried ourselves to death.
We can’t talk about I’ll Be Your Girl, though, without talking about “I’ll Be Your Girl.” Colin Meloy, The Decemberists frontman, said it better than I can:
The title track of the record. I think I just sort of landed on that phrase, “I’ll be your girl.” I feel like it’s something that you see pop up in rock music and rock songwriting. This idea of “I’m your man” or “I’m your girl” or “I’ll be your girl.” And it’s sort of funny. It reminds you just how gendered rock and roll can be. I thought it was funny and interesting then to kind of flip it. The idea of a man singing, “I’ll be your girl.”
He’ll be your girl…”when everything soft upbraids you.”