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coverpic flag US - Oregon - Full Moon 154 - 04/09/09

The Decemberists
The Hazards of Love

Colin Meloy and his The Decemberists are highly ambitious on their new album, their 5th full-length, The Hazards of Love. From the nerd-and-proud gang comes progressive pop, even progressive rock (check out the 1970s Hammond B3 machinery of "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing"). Well, The Crane Wife was ambitious and massive too, but maybe not as crazy as this one.

Colin Meloy is a literate man, and obviously fascinated by folk tales and bizarre twists and turns. The Hazards of Love is like a rock opera, almost a rock musical. Dare I say Genesis meets Radiohead. It's just a thought, something that strikes me now and then. This is a concept, here's a red thread, a full story unveiled throughout the one hour long album. The album has got two parts, with a prelude and an interlude. As I said, massive. But, maybe not too long. That's not the big problem. It's just that, to my ears, this isn't the work of genius it maybe should've been. Maybe this is simply too progressive for me.

The Hazards of Love tells the tale of Margaret, and her lover William. Here's darkness, dark woods, an evil, jealous queen, and an immoral (aren't they all?) rake - who, after becoming a widower, kills his three children to become a free man again. Well, Meloy (as William, and the narrator) sings with pathos, and guest singers count Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) as the queen, and Becky Stark (of Lavender Diamond) as Margaret. In-between I find the 'story' simply absurdly comical, but there are of course some great songs to lift everything. The brilliant "The Rake's Song", with the disturbing story of the Rake, the narrator, who weds at the age of 21, becomes a father of three, then a widower (when the wife dies delivering the fourth child, who also dies), before killing his children (poisoning, drowning, burning) to become a free man. Horror-show, indeed. With a pounding chorus: All right, all right, all right! "Annan Water" is a fine moment, as is "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid". And, of course there are more.

Conclusion: The Hazards of Love is a heavy bird fighting to take off. It sure is a heavy meal, and it might grow on me. Yet, I think I prefer the more more 'plain and simple' The Decemberists, as heard on Her Majesty The Decemberists. I might be wrong.

Copyright © 2009 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Decemberists articles/reviews: Her Majesty The Decemberists, Picaresque, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.

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