The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love

March 24, 2009

hazardsofloveThe term “concept album” has always given me more than a little pause, since it could anything from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to Styx’s Kilroy Was Here. According to its press, The Hazards Of Love, the new album from Portland based band the Decemberists, “tells the tale of Margaret (voiced by Becky Stark), a woman from a city near the forest, and her lover William (voiced by Colin Meloy, lead singer and songwriter), a shape-shifting forest dweller. Margaret discovers she is pregnant, and sets off into the forest to find William. Their love is threatened by the jealous forest queen (voiced by Shara Worden), and a murdering knave.” I am happy to report that The Hazards Of Love is much closer to Sgt. Pepper’s than Kilroy. Though I found the story hard to follow at times, having listened to it the first couple of times without the benefit of a lyric sheet, and though I was somewhat exhausted by the album as a whole by the time it was finished, I found the album to be richly entertaining, and, thankfully, more fun than pretentious. What makes the album really work is the music, which is an often dazzling and headspinning mix of chamber pop, country, folk, and Americana, with some heavy metal guitars thrown in as well. The Hazards Of Love is by no means a perfect record, and at times it’s a bit goofy and silly, but I admire the band for taking on such an ambitious, risky and potentially disastrous project and turning it into something that’s generally a lot of fun to listen to. Standout cuts: “The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone),” “Won’t Want for Love (Margaret In the Taiga),” “Isn’t It a Lovely Night?” and “The Rake’s Song.”

http://www.myspace.com/thedecemberists

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