The Hazards of Love
Mar 19, 2009 Web Exclusive
If Colin Meloy has, up to this point, written four full albums worth of excellent short stories, The Hazards of Love is his first crack at a novel. The full-length details the story of Margaret and, yes, her trials and tribulations in search of and running from love. Over the course of an hour and seventeen tracks we sit on the lap of our storyteller, Meloy, aided by a muscular showing from The Decemberists, who break out the bongs and the blacklights, ’70s-style, for a true rock opera, replete with shape shifters and queens. For those who have heard the bombastic, multi-movement The Tain, none of this should come as much of a surprise. In fact, one of the most disappointing things about The Hazards of Love is that it carries on pretty much as expected.
As they have aged, The Decemberists have become a leaner, more streamlined band. The small flourishes and surprising instrumentation have given way to a more traditional approach. Not that they’re Nickelback or anything, but still. Perhaps the band felt pigeonholed by its reputation as the musical equivalent of a Renaissance fair, or perhaps they opened their closets and saw their old Zeppelin jean jackets and Floyd t-shirts. Whatever the case, The Decemberists have grown less capable of surprise.
The centerpiece of The Hazards of Love is the six-and-a-half minute “The Wanting Comes in Waves/ Repaid” with a glorious guest spot by Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), who appears in full Robert Plant mode. Throughout, Chris Funk clearly relishes his opportunity to unleash some ridiculous guitar licks, but “Repaid” is where he gets to shine. Still, The Hazards of Love doesn’t have the same thrill of the band’s early work. Maybe we’ve come to expect too much from Mr. Meloy and company, or maybe they’ve grown a bit tired of, or comfortable with, their roles. It’s one of the hazards of being so different to begin with. (www.decemberists.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 9/10