The Decemberists

The Hazards Of Love

Written by: TL on 26/03/2009 21:58:16

My checking out of The Decemberists and their latest record "The Hazards Of Love" happened on a complete whim. Before this album, I only had a vague knowledge of the band's existence, but upon noticing their name popping up here and there in connection with this new release, I decided that it was time to check them out, and believe you me, I am all the happier for it.

For you who are as unfamiliar with the band as I was until recently, I can tell you that The Decemberists are an indie rock band from Portland, Oregon, but an unusual one at that. More so than most current rock bands, the band tell stories through their songs while empowering them with lush atmospheres with the use of a variety of instruments like accordion, upright bass etc. Lead singer Colin Meloy has stated about this new album that it was going to be a more mellow folk themed record, but don't you let that fool you into thinking that it's boring. Counting seventeen tracks and telling a dramatic story about a women and a faun who fall in love and their struggles with the queen of the forest and a kidnapper/child murderer, this album is a complex and thoroughly thought out piece of art.

Imagine in your mind the sound of The Arcade Fire at their grandest, or Ryan Adams at his most depressive and then try to fit this sound around a grand storytelling format that reaches for heights of exhilaration that you'd associate with few others than Queen. Throw in some notable hints of 60's rock influences, I'm thinking Beatles/The Who/Bob Dylan, and do the math. The result of such an equation should at the very least let you know that this record is a quite massive composition, and if that's what you're thinking then you're dead on about it. With several elements occurring and reoccurring, moods that change along with the lyrical descriptions of those of the story's characters and magnificent performances by the female guest vocalists, this can in many ways be seen as a grown up's answer to Forgive Durden's pop-musical "Razia's Shadow" of last year.

In fact, it is in this direct comparison that I find the essence of this album the easiest to describe. "The Hazards Of Love" is not nearly as accessible as "Razia's Shadow" and it doesn't have as many exciting cameos, but when given the time to grow around you, it's best moments will easily outshine the simplicity of that album. I am talking of course first and foremost of "The Wanting Comes In Waves Part 1". A six and a half minute epic that is basically three songs in one, with a retardedly strong refrain and a vocal display of intimidating force by My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden. That's not all though, "The Rake's Song" also impresses, with his tale of how he murders his three own children with no sign of remorse being by far the catchiest and most straightforward song on offer. The following "The Abduction Of Margaret" is also notable for the sweeping way it speeds up the advance of events in the story. These all feel far more nuanced than Forgive Durden's 'musical' ever did, and I think the best way of putting is that if "Razia's Shadow" was Andrew Lloyd Webber, then "The Hazards Of Love" is Shakespeare.

So does that mean that it is better then? Truth be told I'll leave that judgment for the individual listener to perform. It is artistically deeper for sure, but also maybe even bordering on the pretentious? I for one can't be bothered with such decisions, I just recognize a stunning piece of music when I hear one, and with the level of intricacy and detail The Decemberists have put into "The Hazards Of Love", their music resides on a whole different level than 80% of what is put out these days.

Download: The Rake Song, The Wanting Comes In Waves Part 1,
For The Fans Of: The Arcade Fire, Ryan Adams, Death Cab For Cutie
Listen: myspace.com/thedecemberists

Release Date: 24.03.2009
Capitol Records / Kill Rock Stars

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