The Hazards Of Love
Since I first discovered this band I have been prepared to follow Captain Meloy and his magnificent vessel The Decemberists to anywhere they chose to take me. Particularly on their breakthrough album Picaresque and their (US) major label debut The Crane Wife the going wasn't always easy but endlessly rewarding. Having played the heart out of this latest offering I have arrived at a point beyond which I am not willing to follow.
The Hazards Of Love is a concept driven rock opera of sorts, inspired by a 60's recording by the same name and it's hard work to say the least. Don't get me wrong, Colin Meloy is incapable of writing anything that is devoid of rewards and there are plenty here but as a whole its sights are set way too firmly on ambition and not enough on song craft. Throughout its 17 tracks it attempts to tell the story of a fair maiden called Margaret who, after her abduction seems to be ravished by a shape-shifting demon. There's a jealous queen, a homicidal villain known as 'the rake' and a particularly disturbing tale where Meloy assumes the character of a child murderer taking out each of his kids one by one so he can be free again.
The Crane Wife marked a definite shift in the intentions of this band and I suppose an album such as this was always on the cards. After moving to a major label their sound grew to epic proportions and took their folk roots into rockier territory. This growth has come to a head with The Hazards Of Love. Running for just short of an hour each of the 17 songs blend seamlessly into one another creating a musical feel to the album. Melodies and choruses recur throughout the record which actually make you feel like you're listening to one huge bloated creation. Its ambition is beyond question but this continuous structure is tiresome.
The title track sets the scene of Margaret's temptation and subsequent abduction with typical Meloy delicacy. The first blend from this track into A Bower Scene marks the first indication that you are listening to something different from this band. Up tempo drums count it in and then after a vocal build you have the crunching weight of guitars. It's a hard rock belt in the face that you certainly weren't expecting and one that rears its mighty head more than once on this record. It makes room for the first guest spot on Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga), which features Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark. Playing the now pregnant Margaret, her sweet vocals breath blissful life and vulnerability into these hard riffs. The second of these guest appearance comes a little later with the riff-heavy The Wanting Comes In Waves. It features My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden playing the part of the Queen bartering for the soul of Margaret's beloved WIlliam. This crazy theme is the last thing you think about as the teaming of thee two voices is a delight. This is by no means the only moment of such delight, they are plentiful and none so great as on Annan Water, a tense affair built on taught strumming that builds ever so slowly and then opens up and lets Meloy's vocals expand on a gentle organ breeze then dive back into the tension once more with expert ease.
Narrative has always been at the forefront of Meloy's work. Never does his writing serve the role of mere love songs but are meticulously crafted out of antique language and expert turn of phrase. Picaresque's The Mariner's Revenge Song is one of Meloy's finest moments and shows his skill for telling a tale. The penultimate stroke on The Crane Wife lurched from one tempo to another with Led Zeppelin like confidence. In hindsight both these songs provide the blueprint for The Hazards Of Love and though many of these new songs stand equally as tall as these previous gems it's the album as a whole that I am critisising. I spend most of my time aching for a band to have the balls to stretch a song out beyond the 7 minute mark and after the first 3 songs of this record I thought my answer had come. But the constant musical stream and the convoluted and often utterly confusing narrative weigh this down and really start to grate after the half way mark. They always had a slightly fucked up Andrew Lloyd Webber feel to their creations but somehow managed to steer their ship away in time. This album embraces that side and it's infuriating as some songs in there own right are quite special, it's nearly impossible to find a fault to justify the mediocre score you see on the left. So on that note I stand here and watch this great ship sail off into the distance without me and quietly hope and pray that someday it will pass by here again and pick me up. I wish them well.
30th Mar 2009 - Tumblr2.5
Camber Sands Holiday Centre, Sussex
Always The Bridesmaid: A Singles Series Volume I
Small scale wartime espionage flick. Decent, but a bit laboured.
15th Jul 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Sub Roland Emmerich swill, with Gerard Butler saving the world from crazy weather.
13th Jul 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Derivative but fun romp through 80s CIA drug and gun running.
12th Jul 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Brutally sincere, painfully thin yakuza flick. Jared Leto goes full Gaijin.
6th Jul 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Huge misfire from Tomas Alfredson, with a multitude of bizarre choices. Like a bad 80's VHS rental.
6th Jul 2018Read more 1.5 star reviews
Brutally violent, post-Tarantino western. It’s all a bit mechanical.
2nd Jun 2018Read more 3 star reviews
A Star Wars Story
Reasonable, forgettable addition. Overfilling that mysterious back story.
1st Jun 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Lazy double-crossing spy drama, directed with a certain amount of swagger.
24th May 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish, incredibly depressing portrait of life on the margins.
12th May 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Minimally written and confidently directed, with a brutally violent third act… https://t.co/Vm7dMUrd3i.
4th May 2018Read more star reviews
Unofficial sequel to The Last Detail. Surprisingly slight effort from Linklater.
29th Apr 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Another tired entry, trotting out the same old tropes, plus new nonsensical gibberish.
13th Apr 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
The Last Jedi
Every moment is undermined by a gag and the few serious scenes are sloppily handled.
13th Apr 2018Read more 2 star reviews
A third crack at Spider-man. Fun-ish, but it’s zero-stakes, zero-jeopardy. Bit smug too.
31st Mar 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Another garish super-hero flick. Slightly above average, mainly by being more old-fashioned.
30th Mar 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Overly dry, eccentric western. Jarmuschian overtones.
16th Mar 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Incredible, tense, original thriller. A western with snowmobiles.
14th Mar 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Career retrospective doc that keeps it fun and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
11th Mar 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Blockbuster-by-numbers as Universal clumsily attempt to build a franchise.
24th Feb 2018Read more 2 star reviews
The Story of Mudhoney
Unsurprising history run-down, enlivened by the band’s ferociously DIY attitude.
21st Feb 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Some good ideas, buried by shambolic direction and storytelling.
20th Feb 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Intense, eerie thriller that’s surprisingly straightforward and a little old-fashioned.
30th Jan 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Disappointingly slow, underdeveloped and literal monster metaphor from Nacho Vigalondo.
27th Jan 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Long, but moving and stylishly directed period drama. Fantastic cinematography.
15th Jan 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Grown-up superhero flick. Handled far better than most, but ridiculously violent.
6th Jan 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Slated by the critics, this is a stylish, slight, small movie - with two massive stars in it.
6th Jan 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Fun, original take on an otherwise ageing property. Apocalypse Now meets Watchmen.
5th Jan 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Clunky Brit thriller that telegraphs every one of its sub-Hitchcockian twists, despite the decent premise.
3rd Jan 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Stylish, fast-paced, amusing antidote to the endless stream of generic superhero movies.
27th Dec 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Disappointingly slight award winner, that doesn’t find its stride until 10 minutes from the end.
27th Dec 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Left-field genre mash-up that pitches itself just right. Solid action, good humour. Thoroughly enjoyable.
25th Dec 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Bleak, real-time journey through the realities of living on benefits.
25th Dec 2017Read more 3 star reviews
The Last Jedi
Shambolic sequel that squanders the promising set up from JJ, plus 40 year… https://t.co/SdXpv8B5hj.
21st Dec 2017Read more star reviews
The Extra Terrestial
Kids on BMXs sticking it to the man. What could be better.
19th Dec 2017Read more 5 star reviews
Lifeless sci-fi horror. Gravity meets Piranha.
12th Dec 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Disappointingly flat and uninsightful documentary from Michael Almerayda.
5th Dec 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Amiable, zero jeopardy comedy from Soderbergh. Slightly unsure what it’s trying to be.
2nd Dec 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Another thoughtful biographical effort from Mike Mills. Stylish but a little long and sprawling.
25th Nov 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Stylish, but utterly nonsensical drivel. Knowing anything about the game might vaguely help.
24th Nov 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Bland, predictable potboiler that could have been written, directed and acted by a computer.
18th Nov 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Stylish, touching movie. Nicely acted if a little slow.
12th Nov 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Historical engaging, but languidly edited thriller surrounding the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege.
5th Nov 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Intense, mournful coming-of-age drama. Very stylish and operatic. Terrence Mallick via John Singleton.
21st Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Intricately plotted, but seamlessly crafted into a lighthearted modern classic.
20th Oct 2017Read more 5 star reviews
Belated sequel that remixes the original with some success, but the nostalgia runs a little thin.
15th Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
A Beautiful Mind meets the A-Team. Convoluted actioner that doesn’t transcend its premise.
11th Oct 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Solid, uplifting biopic. Well structured with moments of real tension despite the inevitable ending. And 91m.
11th Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Good visuals, nice music, flabby storytelling and a confusing plot. A worthy sequel.
6th Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Convoluted, charmless sequel. A rare misfire from Pixar.
17th Sep 2017Read more 2 star reviews