The Hazards of Love

(2009), 7.5/10
There were hints of a rock opera in The Decemberists’ earlier work; The Tain was a twenty minute single song, and parts of The Crane Wife were also long suites. But The Hazards of Love takes these flirtations into an hour long rock opera with multiple vocalists and repeated themes. Joining Colin Meloy are Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond, Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket, playing the characters including a shape-shifting forest dweller and the Forest Queen.

Like The Tain, there’s plenty of influence from seventies progressive rock – Jethro Tull is the most obvious touchstone given the similarity of Meloy’s vocals to Ian Anderson’s. But there’s also crunching blues rock on songs like ‘The Wanting Comes In Waves’, and British folk on songs like ‘Annan Water’. There’s plenty to like on songs like the concluding ‘The Hazards Of Love 4 (The Drowned)’, where Meloy strains his high vocals

As a full length album, The Hazards Of Love isn’t as successful as their shorter forays into epics – even though it’s substantial, it also feels repetitive. The repetition of musical themes is obviously an element of rock operas – I have similar issues with notable rock operas like Tommy and The Wall, but it means that The Hazards Of Love is one of my less favoured Decemberists’ albums.

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