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The Decemberists - The Hazards Of Love CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

4.07 | 289 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars The art of condensing a significant story into the confines of an hour or so of music is not simply a matter of furnishing a compelling storyline and delivering it with lyrical grace, although both are required. The real challenge is to provide musical accompaniment that avoids overshadowing the tale without sounding rote or add-on. It must give a sense of propelling the proceedings forward, reflecting the plot twists and mood changes. In their earlier work, the Decemberists had trouble doing this even with short stories, but on "Hazards of Love" they have produced one of the better full length musical narratives in recent memory.

Clearly an analysis of this disk cannot consist of a track by track breakdown, so interwoven are the musical and lyrical themes. Colin Meloy has wisely chosen to include a cast of major characters, even guest vocals for the various roles, which all add variety to what is actually an archetypal folk rock collage, sometimes acoustically driven, sometimes riff based, sometimes 1960s harmony oriented, sometimes orchestrated or choral. The melodies are functional and rarely of much complexity, but they drive the work to its climax remarkably well. For me, the gentle acoustic "An Interlude" and the caustic "The Rake's Song" stand as highlights, and, unlike most of what's here, could be plucked out and be quite happy on their own. Likewise, "Annan Water" might be the most progressive piece here, with a haunting folk melody and strummed backing that can easily distract me from the overall flow, but that just means hitting repeat a few more times!

Only "The Queen's Rebuke" seems to need a rebuke of its own, as it succumbs to hard rock cliche, but considering how often this album looks to be doing so only to save itself, this is a thin bone to pick. In addition, the last couple of tracks drag like a movie that would have been perfect if it ended on such and such a scene. Sure, the story isn't over, but the teller lost his touch 15 minutes earlier.

With this significant release, the Decemberists have negotiated all hazards remarkably well. It's not your typical progressive fare, but for those who enjoy modern folk rock with a decidedly progressive attitude, "hazards" is a safe bet.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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