Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A review: The Hazards of Love

The Decemberists have never been cool. This is, of course, exactly why they're awesome. They're a band that has carved their unique voice out of a surprisingly earnest dedication to very strange obsessions. They've written a few radio-ready songs, but for every 16 Military Wives or Sons And Daughters, they have five more songs about Japanese fables, star-crossed romance between rival gangs or mariners that were swallowed whole by whales.

For their fifth album, they have abandoned the (mostly) self-contained stories of their previous songs and done a full-on concept album ala The Wall. Though even The Wall produced several singles for Pink Floyd, and I can't imagine any of the songs in this album standing on their own; perhaps The Rake's Song - a tale of familicide that recalls Bob Dylan's Ballad of Hollis Brown or The Violent Femmes' Country Death Song (those references are for you, Gwen) - or Annan Water, but even those songs are lessened when taken out of context.

The album tells the story of a pregnant woman named Margaret who is in love with (stay with me here) a shape-shifting faun. Margaret is abducted by the villainous Rake, who is flown to safety across the wide, uncrossable river by the jealous Forest Queen, who considers her to be a corrupting temptation on the innocent faun. It's an odd album, but full of great music and those wonderful lyrical twists unique to this band - who but The Decemberists would ever write this quatrain, taken from The Rake's Song:
No more a rake and no more a bachelor
I was wedded and it whetted my thirst
until her womb started spilling out babies
only then did I reckon my curse

It's a wonderful mix of wordplay and utterly ridiculous, mustache-twirling villainy that perfectly fits the style of the album.

The real star of the record, by the way, is guest singer Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) who takes the music by storm, cracks it open with a sledgehammer and unleashes the heavy metal riffs that Chris Funk was born to play.

This album is an oddity, as is the band that created it. And for that, I have to love it.


Blogger Madeleine said...

That's awesome. I have to get a copy.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous M said...

Bredon, even if I did not love the ablum...but I think I will, I would have to say that i love the review. Cracked open with a sledgehammer? Wonderful.

11:17 AM  
Blogger gwen said...

Ditto on the review. fantastic.

11:52 AM  
Blogger dragon warior said...

nice review
i got an account this is ben by the way

10:46 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I really like these guys. Listening to the concert in Austin right now.

8:24 PM  

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