The Hazards of Love

March 23, 2009

What the Decemberists have done is somewhat beyond belief in the state of today’s failing music industry.  Perhaps this is what the new industry will produce.  Maybe labels will finally let bands do whatever they want.  Maybe executives will finally realize that the bands their A&R reps sign are popular because of who they are, not what they could be with more money.  And certainly not so they can go into a mold of whatever is playing on the top 40 count-down.  With traditional radio ratings continuing to drop, and alternate forms of  exposure being introduced daily, the album should no longer be defiant on how many singles it contains.  There will always be catchy hooks, and 3 minute love songs, which appeal to the larger audience.  But after 50 years of mass production, I think what people are searching for more than ever is personalization.  We don’t want to be the same anymore, we are all looking for our own identity.

The Hazards of Love is a rock opera in its truest form, however unlike the trend of the 70s (the Wall, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Tommy) this tale has no visual representation.  The story exists solely in audible form, produced exclusively from the mind of creative genius Colin Meloy.  A deep and complex tale has been weaved that must be unpacked  in one setting.  While the album is divided into 17 “tracks”  there are no breaks, each composition moves seamlessly into the next.  However, in a span of  59.4 minutes the band takes a musical journey that has no limits.  While the band has never been afraid of musical creativity and often prided themselves on traditional instrumentation and folk-art-rock sound, they expand their horizons, ironically, by allowing guitarist Chris Funk to inject  incredible yet brilliantly simple rock riffs,  which create a mysteriously dark aspect to the tale.

The story is told by a cast of charters who’s names are listed above their respective lines  inside the gatefold.  Colin sings the majority of the parts, but is accompanied by Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond, Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, and a children’s choir to portray the imagery of heroins, queens, and the ghosts of unfortunate soles, all painted with the spirit of Russian folklore. While I can not wait to see this album performed live, the record is so rich that it feels as if I am witnessing the actors live in my living room.

The album is available in three forms, download, compact disk, and vinyl.  While the audiophile in me enjoys the pure sound of vinyl the pauses incurred from flipping the 2 disks tempts me to purchase the digital version when it becomes available next week.

Whether you a fan of the decemberists or not, one can not deny the historical importance of this undertaking.  In an era of singles, most would say the album is dead, and major labels would not gamble on a hitless project.  But the decemberits have denied the common beliefs music critics have tried to convey.  The album lives and true art (like love) will always find a way.

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