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
Always The Bridesmaid: A Singles Series Volume I
Camber Sands Holiday Centre, Sussex
Thoughtful, stylish drama with a zen central performance.
17th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Stiff, poorly paced innovative film that hasn’t aged well.
11th Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Inspiring, tightly scripted gem - overlooked by lockdown.
4th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Standard-issue airplane movie, with Joel Kinnaman standing in for Vin Diesel.
3rd Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Sub LA Confidential gumshoe thriller - with an underplayed USP. Ed Norton misses again.
27th Sep 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Over explained threequel, that undermines a low key original.
18th Sep 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Intriguing, but generally incomprehensible sci-fi gobbledegook.
31st Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
The Next Level
Marginally less fun sequel, but still plenty of laughs.
16th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Beautifully imagined and lovingly restored, but it still alternates between a snail’… https://t.co/6bZj694rnx.
12th Aug 2020Read more star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable plane movie, though it owes a lot to the magnificent Copland.
8th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Tension-free Bateman rom com. Lacking rom and com.
8th Aug 2020Read more 2 star reviews
Incredibly stylish and wannabe cerebral sci-fi, that’s ultimately a little thin.
19th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Underwhelming space drama that’s a bit too intimate and not very epic.
5th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Dire, tension-free postcode gang drama. Just add drama.
21st Jun 2020Read more 1 star reviews
Magnificent documentary, re-assembling the moon landing from beautifully remastered footage.
14th Jun 2020Read more 4 star reviews
The 8th slow-paced Tarantino pic. Literally half entertaining / boring.
24th May 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Entertaining Brit-com, though it’s a bit on-the-beaten-path for Danny Boyle.
13th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Mildly enjoyable, thoroughly forgettable Nick Hornby pic ...once you get past the contrived set up.
4th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Kid-friendly(ish), super fun superhero movie.
23rd Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Impeccably realised remake, but it’s emotionally flat.
15th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Standard festival thriller, with some style and decent moments - but it’s all a bit thin.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable, Guy Ritchie-fied Disney remake.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Cookie cutter biography that could literally have been written from his Wikipedia page.
7th Mar 2020Read more 1.5 star reviews
Text book indie, literally days out of Sundance. Interesting until it gets a bit too wacky.
9th Feb 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Strong slice of 90s skate nostalgia. Slow and subtle.
8th Feb 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
25th Jan 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
31st Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Yet another biggest-battle-yet, with more than a passing nod to BTTF2.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Decent origin story, with charm and some 90s nostalgia.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Rise of Skywalker
Freestyle bouillabaisse with all the ingredients, but no chef.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Quintessential indie movie ...funded by Netflix. Great perfs, lovely camera work and solid direction.
22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Superior modern thriller. Smart script and accomplished direction.
15th Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Long, slow, thoroughly enjoyable loose jam through Scorsese/DeNiro/Pacino/Pesci/Keitel’s greatest hits.
2nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
28th Nov 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Casual drama from Clint Eastwood, with the man himself anchoring things through a charming turn.
16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Luscious period drama. Beautifully put together - like Wolf Hall+.
3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish but incoherent Cheney biopic, hampered by another one-note turn from Bale.
5th Oct 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Mind numbingingly basic biopic, saved by the nostalgia for the music and moments.
5th Oct 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Interesting doc following the lives of 3 teens becoming adults, tied together by skateboarding.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Painful, occasionally uplifting viewing with a grief stricken central performance.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Into the Spider-Verse
Stylish, trippy concept animated superhero flick with some great moments.
21st Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Young adult upgrade, with just enough Conchords humour to keep it enjoyable.
22nd Aug 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent Aussie surf drama, that nostalgically investigates the soul of surfing before losing its way a little.
14th Aug 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
13th Jul 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Predictably grim seaside coming-of-age indie. Decent enough, but you’ve seen it before
13th Jul 2019Read more 3 star reviews