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Decemberists, The / Hazards Of Love, The
Album:Hazards Of Love, The Collection:General
Artist:Decemberists, The Added:04/2009
Label:Capitol Records Inc. 

A-File Activity
Add Date:2009-04-05 Pull Date:2009-06-07 
Week Ending:7 Jun31 May24 May10 May3 May26 Apr19 Apr12 Apr
Airplays:21323211

 Recent Airplay
1.May 02, 2015:Mix Tape
The Abduction Of Margaret
4.Feb 09, 2011:NickAndNoah: TheRadioShow
The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid
2.Nov 17, 2012:Music Casserole
The Hazarrds Of Love 2 (Wager All)
5.Nov 05, 2010:Everyday Commotion
A Bower Scene
3.Mar 21, 2011:&tc.
The Rake's Song
6.May 23, 2010:Uncross My Arms, or, The Unbirthday Tape
A Bower Scene

Album Review
Adam Pearson
Reviewed 2009-04-05 
The Hazards of Love – The Decemberists

Proggy folk indie rock. I will first preface this by acknowledging that this probably won’t get any airplay here at KZSU. The Decemberists aren’t appealing to the mainstream of Coldplay and U2, yet the Pitchfork/indie kid/post-hipster community has completely abandoned them. Where does that lead them? It thrusts them squarely in the alternative rock radio scene currently inhabited by the likes of Death Cab, Interpol, The White Stripes, The Arcade Fire, Muse, The Strokes, Feist, etc. Kind of a bizarre series of events when alternative rock radio passes the gauntlet from Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Green Day to indie-pop-gone-major-label phenoms in a matter of 10 years.

The Decemberists were at a crossroads in their career after the release of The Crane Wife. Yes it was major label release, but it was still not a dramatic drop off in quality from Picaresque. They could have gone on and pulled the ‘Death Cab’ and just settled for nullifying any relevance they ever had with a record like Plans or they could have pushed back and tried to retain some sort of artistic integrity. This is Colin Meloy’s attempt to ‘push back’ from the inevitability of being absorbed into the alternative mainstream. As a result, we get an album without any ‘radio-friendly’ songs. (Though I’m not really sure what the Decemberists’ current audience is. If the indie kids write them off, and the middle-schoolers don’t hear a catchy riff, how are they going to sell records? Unless of course, the indie kids secretly buy the record and pretend they don’t like them, which is possible.) The Decemberists are outcasts to every music circle.

Originally conceived as a play (what the fuck?), The Hazards of Love is a concept album. It follows some story about two lovers Margaret and William, or something along those lines, complete with ridiculously pretentious lyrics. Proggy synths and organs layer most tracks. Every track blends into the next, so be mindful of that if you decide to play this. As usual, The Hazards of Love is neither the trash that Pitchfork/indie-site-of-choice claim it is, nor the transcendent glory that Rolling Stone/mainstream-publication-of-choice claim it is. It is a flashy, puzzling, ambitious mess with some nice moments and some drudgery. This was numbing by the end. I really can’t see this record as a commercial success…which achieves what Colin was going for, I guess? To quote Bart Simpson, “you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” At least they didn’t fold like a lawn chair…like Death Cab.

1.Organs/synths drone along a dark instrumental-ish opening. (3:04)
2. Folksy guitars open, backing vocals, percussion is light, catchy lyrical refrains, upright bass is all over the place, drums come in halfway through. First of four title tracks. (4:19)
3. Thicker guitars churn along, organs, dulcimer, whole song is a buildup to the end. (2:09)
4. Takes the previous song and breaks it down to an almost prog-funk groove. Lead female vox, drums are simplistic, refrains are catchy, and poppy. Colin comes in with a little more than a minute left for sappy acrobatics, returns to the groove. (4:07)
*5. Sounds romantic, guitar work is nice, and vocals are polished. This reminds me of some of their older stuff with a new maturity. Interesting. Second of four title tracks. It really isn’t that original, but I think it’s an interesting move. (4:25)
6. Brief instrumental of banjo and whining violins. (0:29)
7. A little NMH conjured up, accordion, steel pedal guitar, more lead female vocals over sleepy acoustic guitar, prominent synths, a waltz. (3:39)
8. Harpsichord? Really? Pop rock/classical/proggy mess. All over the place in true progressive rock fashion. This sounds like it could have come out of a new ‘rock musical’. Even has darker sounds for when the ‘bad’ characters sing. Maybe he should have wrote the fucking play. I can see it now. The Hazards of Love, a new Broadway rock musical! To make matters worse, parts also recall their lead single off The Crane Wife “O Valencia!” (6:26)
9. Simpler interlude with acoustic, electric guitars, bouzouki. Somewhat pleasant. Electric guitars sound almost new-agey. (1:40)
*10. I think this may be the single, but I don’t know. Kind of repetitive, so it’s definitely possible. Heavy, intense, banging percussion comes in over the droney lead melody. It’s actually kind of cool. (3:16)
11. This is like 3. Fast paced punk?-esque strumming, recalls a motif from earlier. I really can’t tell which track because it all has sort of blended together. (2:07)
12. This is like 4. Slow, almost stoner-rock feel to this. Lead female vocals. Feedback-laden guitars, phaser effects and shit screech around. Seriously, this does have a stoner-rock/prog feel. Black Mountain-esque. (3:56)
*13. Hurdy gurdy? Really full instrumentation here, mandolin, hammered dulcimer, synths, accordion, interesting percussion, and organs on top of usual. Folk guitar. This definitely has that progressive folk thing going for it. (5:11)
14. Recalls an earlier track, but I can’t be bothered to find which one. So I just figured out that Colin is singing William’s part as well as some villain? That’s hella confusing. Some great voice-crackage on this too. Strings weep. (3:08)
15. Title track number 3. More harpsichord for comic relief. Some choir delivers Shakespearean verse over squeaky noises and tense atmospherics. Finally, we get the pleasure of electronic drums in the vein of The Smashing Pumpkins’ worst. (3:22)
16. Recalls a particularly poppy refrain from earlier, with sweet backing vocals. This has an Arcade Fire feel to it. Noisy conclusion. (1:31)
*17. A real song? Slow, brooding acoustic guitar. I really couldn’t follow the story so I’m going to guess that this is a tragedy and the woman died or dies or will die. Full, sweet backing vocals (I guess Jim James is trapped in here somewhere). Oh yes, some folk-alt country for good measure: steel pedal, banjo show up while strings cry. (5:57)


Track Listing
1.Prelude 9.An Interlude
2.The Hazards Of Love (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle The Thistles Undone) 10.The Rake's Song
3.A Bower Scene 11.The Abduction Of Margaret
4.Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga) 12.The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing
5.The Hazarrds Of Love 2 (Wager All) 13.Annan Water
6.The Queen's Approach 14.Margaret In Captivity
7.Isn't It A Lovely Night? 15.The Hazards Of Love 3 (Revenge!)
8.The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid 16.The Wanting Comes In Waves (Reprise)
 17.The Hazards Of Love 4 (The Drowned)