Speaking of gimmicks, The Decemberists seem to have their act down pat on Picaresque. Seeming at times to be less a band and more a theater troupe, they affect a twee, olde-tyme voice in many of their lyrics, resulting in long-winded shaggy-dog songs like “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” or star-crossed ballads like “We Both Go Down Together.” Great stuff if drinking-hall operettas are your thing, but if they’re not, these songs can get kind of tedious as they wallow in their quaint mannerisms.

Luckily, half the songs on the album get away from the gimmickry and get on with the fun. Songs like “The Bagman’s Gambit” and “On The Bus Mall” use Colin Meloy’s songwriting skills to tell stories not of sailors and scions, but of secret agents in love and boys living in their own private Idaho. And on a couple of tracks (“The Sporting Life” and “16 Military Wives”), the band finally drops all pretense, loosens its tie, and lets itself rock out, much to the listener’s relief. Really, gimmicks are nice, but it’s nice to just let your hair down and have some fun once in a while, too.