Review: “The Hazards of Love,” The Decemberists


After the Decemberists’ big breakthrough album The Crane Wife (2006) I liked this band, but thought they were kinda pretentious.  That notion is reinforced in spades with The Hazards Of Love, a new 17-song cycle that this Oregon-based band previewed in its entirety at SXSW.  Lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy is the northwestern Van Dyke Parks: his lyrics are verbally dense and sometimes a little too thickly literary.  On the new album, he tells the story of a girl and her lover who happens to have the power to shape-shift.  I dunno, it was kind of hard to follow in a literal sense but the music is gorgeous: I’d give the Best Supporting Actress award to singer Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, who energetically sings the part of the evil queen on this album.  Another female singer, Becky Stark (of the band Lavender Diamond) sings the lead part and Meloy’s familiar singing is the backbone of the concept.  At times I thought I was listening to Led Zeppelin (“The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid”) or Fairport Convention (“The Hazards Of Love 3″/Revenge”) or even King Crimson (“The Queen’s Rebuke”), but that’s actually a good thing.  And the album rocks, in places:  like “The Abduction of Margaret” and “The Rake’s Song.”  And “Margaret” is a lot like past Decemberists efforts, allowing a sort of bookmark for novice listeners.   So enjoy this throwback of a rock album like you would any other progressive rock effort – spark the bong and ponder the pompous profundity of The Hazards Of Love.

MP3: “The Abduction Of Margaret”

Stream the entire album live from SXSW on NPR Radio

The Decemberists official website

One Response to “Review: “The Hazards of Love,” The Decemberists”

  1. timbabwe Says:

    I listened to it three or four times and it didn’t move me,
    until I saw them perform it live last weekend outside the Walker
    Art Museum last weekend. Powerful, rocking and still
    somewhat incomprehensible… I stopped trying to search for a
    plot line and treated it like Italian Opera. Let the music and
    the sounds of the words move you, not the meaning of the words.

    The singing of “Margaret” reminded me most of
    Licorice McKechnie of The Incredible String Band,
    in their grand theatrical concept album “U”.

    After the hazards, the guest vocalists left and the stripped-down
    Decemberists played for another hour. The girls came back
    for the encore, channelling the Wilson Sisters in Heart’s
    “Crazy On You”.

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