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April 24, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (capitol)

Calling on past eras of pop, punk, & rock ’n’ roll, and subsequently varnishing the product with their own seasoned blend of baroque personality, which scavenges and prowls the musical palate like marauding pirates, the Decemberists have at last perfected the presentation of their theatrical music on The Hazards of Love.

The record flows with liquid fluidity from track to track as it follows the story of the heroine Margaret as she falls in love with William, a creature of an at-times serene but equally malicious shape-shifting forest of shadows. The plotline allows the Decemberists to play with the album structure, mixing metal distortion with folk sweetness, punk viscosity with baroque harpsichords and skilfully pulling it all off with immaculate ease. Consequently, the album doesn’t settle on any stable ground sonically, instead using the plot of the musical as its anchor. The resulting fluctuation in sound may prove frustrating for some listeners.

However, loyalty to their storytelling has allowed the Decemberists to create a number of stylistic musical themes which fashion the previously mentioned fluidity, crafting the album as a single entity. In the same stroke such song-to-song flow sacrifices the ability to have two or three outstanding tracks that act as hooks for the record, one exception being the dry, rhythmic ‘The Rake’s Song’, the record’s first single. This really is an album that the listener must consume from start to finish and not merely pick out the candy in the middle. The genius lies in the Decemberists’ ability to make the experience overwhelmingly enjoyable. Conclusion: a damn fine record. The musicianship is outstanding, the storyline intriguing and all delivered by the now-experts of fable music. The Decemberists have finally seemed to tap into that huge well of potential that was so visible on Picaresque and Castaways and Cutouts, and deliver a record so pleasurable and diverse the seventeen tracks can be played several times in an afternoon without losing their shine. Well fucking done.


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