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
Slight, but sometime engaging iPhone feature.
26th Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Decent modern spin on Mary Poppins. Bit uneven, but a nice soundtrack helps things along.
20th Jan 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Bog standard entry into The-Rock-action-movie genre. As much personality as a computer game.
3rd Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
This time it’s really, really serious. Seriously.
27th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
It’s a musical ...but slick direction makes it just about bearable.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Pop-culture bouillabaisse, hampered by numerous terrible accents.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Pacey, emotional, old-fashioned indie pic. Beautifully observed.
15th Dec 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly underwhelming biopic that doesn’t find its feet until 20m from the end.
24th Nov 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Utterly derivative / thoroughly enjoyable ‘Heat’ rip off.
21st Nov 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Well crafted character study, with some nice touches.
10th Nov 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Brutal revenge thriller. Stylish and violent, with plenty of explanation… https://t.co/VfjHjpveUJ.
4th Nov 2018Read more star reviews
Intense indie drama from Netflix. Impeccably acted and directed.
27th Oct 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Disappointingly unoriginal superhero movie, complete with dull CGI action.
27th Oct 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Continually clichéd rock romance that never breaks into originality.
13th Oct 2018Read more 1.5 star reviews
Dry Morrissey biopic that gets arty by avoiding using any Smiths songs.
7th Oct 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Decent rehash of vintage indie movie tropes.
7th Oct 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Mumblingly wordy western that’s big on self-importance and low on drama and tension.
25th Sep 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Muddled biopic with occasional moments of eccentric comedy madness.
22nd Sep 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Like a long episode of Girls that’s all about one of the more boring characters.
16th Sep 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Slightly confused slice of post-Michael Mann LA crime.
7th Sep 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Sympathetic retread of Single White Female, with added #hashtags.
26th Aug 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Welcome to the Jungle
Fun updated reboot with added Breakfast Club.
26th Aug 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Low-tide mark for super hero movies. I only finished watching to see how bad it could get.
14th Aug 2018Read more 1 star reviews
It’s a cover version of every other Mallick pic, but the setting is inspired and the improv from Gosling is enjoyably enthusiastic.
8th Aug 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Well written, well paced sequel. Surprisingly competent and heartwarming.
4th Aug 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
70s pot boiler that lazily meanders through a series of mediocre set pieces.
23rd Jul 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Enjoyable change of pace for the super hero genre. Comedy wins.
21st Jul 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Great concept, but shoddily directed and utterly devoid of jeopardy.
17th Jul 2018Read more 2 star reviews
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. Starring thin Vince Vaughn.
4th May 2018Read more 3.5 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