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The Decemberists make rock opera cool with Hazards

Adam Spektor

Issue date: 3/20/09 Section: Focus
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With their latest album, former indie snobs The Decemberists bring back a genre that has slightly fallen out of favor recently: the rock opera. And they do it really well.
Media Credit: Courtesy prettymuchamazing.com
With their latest album, former indie snobs The Decemberists bring back a genre that has slightly fallen out of favor recently: the rock opera. And they do it really well.

Over the last few years, a wide range of formerly maligned artists have achieved new levels of indie credibility thanks to sets of young artists taking inspiration from somewhat unusual sources. From the Human League to Bruce Springsteen, many popular artists that would have been scoffed at by the elite less than 10 years ago are now "cool." It was only a matter of time, then, when the modern indie snobs would draw from Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Leave it to (former) indie stalwarts the Decemberists to do so.

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.
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In This Issue

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  • Baseball: Late innings the decider in Kenyon doubleheader split
  • Hostoffer gets All-American
  • Softball: Wolz hits grand slam; Spartans sweep Kenyon
  • Tennis: Men win second straight
  • Track & Field: Jeroski and Breon impress in Atlanta
  • Women's Ultimate: Gobies win tournament, leap from No. 146 to No. 14

Fun Page

  • Crossword Answers
  • Jumble Answers
  • Sudoku Answers

Opinion

  • Editorial: Wall project valuable despite cost
  • Global environmental fund is inappropriate for economic climate
  • Students find motivation to serve in local, international efforts
  • Sudanese lives would be affected by military intervention

Focus

  • Bo Burnham brings hilariously offensive comedy to The Spot
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  • Film Society pulls in packed house despite complicated logistics
  • Spartans of Style: Examining the Europeans
  • Springfest brings more than just a big name band
  • The Secret Ingredient: Sweet and flaky coconut

Sex and Dating

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Spartan Spotlight

  • Adam Erickson

Worst Case Scenario

  • Inanity of the snooze button
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