The Hazards of Love


Usually when Culturebot gets offered swag it’s pretty lame. every once in a while though, we get something good. we were pretty pleased to receive a copy of the new Decemberist’s CD. I had heard of them but never actually listened to their music so I was looking forward to checking them out. And now I’ll give some quotable copy: 


The Decemberists’ new CD The Hazards of Love is a bright, shiny, lustrous, concept album with crisp, clean, digital production values, calling to mind a whole host of semi-psychedelic sprawling epic concept albums that preceded it including the early Grateful Dead albums Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa, the Stone Roses’ debut record, Trip Shakespeare’s Lulu, The Who’s Tommy and a number of others.  The Hazards of Love strikes a nice balance between whimsy and seriousness, with a playful retro-poetic bent to the lyrics but a lush, complicated musical structure that is alternately lovely and jarring. I really loved the vocals, too. The girl vocalist sounds like someone from my musical memory but I just can’t place it.

I’m not sure I really follow the “story” as such – but I will certainly be giving it another listen. Living in NYC we are exposed to so much horrible Broadway music posing as “Rock Opera” and so much bombastic, downtown art-y “music-theater” that is frequently neither, it is always with trepidation that I approach concept albums.

But there is something in the sweep and scope of Hazards of Love that feels deeply attuned to this aesthetic moment. Having reached a sort of “nadir of nihilism” during the Bush era, we have swung back a full 40 years where we are dreaming again, hoping again, Romantic again.  The expansive sound of the Hazards of Love is suited to the this new heroic age, the occasionally jarring transition, the dissonance and the edge show the history of what we’ve been through, musically. There’s some Pixies in there, a touch of Nirvana and from my limited exposure, maybe a hint of the Dears. The danger is that the whole enterprise frequently veers a little too close to the pretentious prog rock world of early Genesis and Jethro Tull …. but I’m going to give the Decemberist’s the benefit of the doubt and assume they are self-aware and slightly tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing.

Whatevs. Its a great album and now its on my iPod so I look forward to listening to it a few more times not just to enjoy the music but see if I can figure out what the heck is going on. Something about a girl named Margaret. And love. And a singing Faun and the Hazards of Love & stuff.

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