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


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

4.07 | 277 ratings

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3 stars Great at first, fades over time

My first encounter with The Decemberists was not a pleasant one, purchasing The Crane Wife right after it came out. I sold it within a week or two which means I was pretty unimpressed, although I don't remember the specifics anymore. So I had no intention of buying this album until I started to see all these "masterpiece" ratings being awarded, when I figured the band deserved another shot at my ear. I'm very glad I did as I gained a fair appreciation for the band, but one that only goes so far.

This "folk-rock opera" as perfectly described by Russellk is a nice mix of contrasts: acoustic music with some rock sections, dark themes against sometimes upbeat and sunny melody, male and female vocals (sounds just a tad like an updated Comus although not nearly as interesting musically.) Actually it remind me more of Neil Young's "Greendale" storybook album from a few years back, which incidentally was Neil's finest work since the '70s. "The Hazards of Love" is a sweeping work with musical motifs that resurface throughout the 17 tracks to give the work a true conceptual feel. It is immediately accessible and you will be attuned to the melodies before your first play is even finished. Delightful folk melodies with crisp acoustic instrumentation, pedal-steel providing a nice country feel in a few places, rich character vocals, even some well placed strings and Hammond. It can be a very enjoyable listen especially in the first half of the album. Lyrically the album is as dark as it gets---did you think Comus was dark? How about killing your kids because they're a pain in the ass? Well that's a big part of the story and a side of the disc which just leaves me indifferent. Dark can be great when it feels genuinely necessary or is handled just right, but here the storyline just never felt like more than awkward melodrama. The best parts for me are the female vocals of "Won't want for love" and "Isn't it a lovely night." They have this lovely lilting modesty to them, haunting, ethereal, and absolutely perfect. In an album that is overly wordy and featuring a male singer who overstays his welcome, these female vocals are a breath of fresh air. There is the amazing track "The wanting comes in waves" which is just brilliant, with these perfectly constructed melodies and choruses---absolute folk rock gem track.

"Hazards" is a very good album but that's as far as it goes for me. I cannot put this album with my top 5% masterpiece classics, nor can I even convince myself it belongs in 4 star company when I compare it with some of those titles. My problem with "Hazards" is that the first couple plays were the most enjoyable. After that it becomes a tedious affair for repeated listening. The second half drags considerably over time and the experience of playing it becomes cumbersome. Still I believe it earns 3 stars and could easily win over fans of ambitious folk-rock music. Musicianship is top notch, some nice melodies, but far from the best progressive titles in your collection.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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