The Decemberists make rock opera cool with Hazards
Issue date: 3/20/09 Section: Focus
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Fans of the band shouldn't worry though, as their latest album, The Hazards of Love, isn't riddled with 20-minute long keyboard-and-drum solos, and due to its rock opera content, the lyrics are not impossible to decipher (though in the great Decemberists tradition, you may want to have a dictionary on hand). The progression that led up to this album also greatly predicts the band's almost inevitable attempt at a rock opera. Not only have the Decemberists always had a proclivity toward drama, but the progressive and hard rock that dotted The Tain EP and songs like "The Island" and "When the War Came" off of 2006's The Crane Wife leaves little surprise to the actual content of The Hazards of Love.
Still, it is a bit shocking at times to hear the sludgy blues riff that crops up as a motif throughout the album, particularly on "The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing," easily the heaviest song the band has ever written. Once the shock wears off though, it becomes clear that the progressive move was a smart one for the group, as opposed to a rehash of their earlier, more conventional work.
Several moments on the album truly shine bright. "The Rake's Song" tells a violent story where the song's narrator kills his three children, and then proclaims, "It never bothers me," amid a catchy "Alright! Alright!" chorus and thunderous drumming. Similarly, the bombastic centerpiece of the album, "The Wanting Comes in Waves," stands as one of the highlights of the band's entire catalogue.