First off – sorry about the brief hiatus there. Had a busy week. Working lots, getting engaged – these things can take up your time.
Anyhow, there are piles of albums to review and more coming out (like a certain live album and documentary about a certain best rock band in America, but we’ll get to that later) and I need to get back to work. But thanks to you, my 6 to 9 (on average) readers, for being patient.
The Decemberists are part of a music scene in my old stomping ground of Portland, Oregon, that has produced awesome punk music (like The Thermals), strummy goodness (like M. Ward), and whatever genre you would call the Decemberists. I like to call it Novel Rock. And their new album is, naturally, a sort of “concept” album. Having discussed recently the pitfalls of the double-album, I feel I should take a minute to discuss the “concept” album with you. It’s usually a bad bet. The Wall was a concept album, but the concept is kinda loose and, if you can ignore the fact it carries a large subtext of Roger Waters hating his fucking fans, it’s a pretty good listen. But you remember when Garth Brooks went all emo and did that Chris Gaines thing? Yeah, you don’t remember it because it was a fuck-awful idea. But, also a “concept” album. So you can really hit with the concept album or really miss with it, depending on your abililties. If you’re abilities are unprecendentedly awesome, your concept album will be The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. But then you’d be David Bowie and, if you’re David Bowie and you read Bollocks!, I will totally by you a beer. Or a tea. Or a whatever. You are awesome, David Bowie. That’s what I’m trying to say.
The Decemberists are ripe candidates to hit the mark with The Hazards of Love, and they do. After all, they’ve done epic songs before and even strung together the loosely conceptual The Tain EP, which was totally awesome (more awesome when performed in its entirety at the Hollywood Bowl, backed by the L.A. Philharmonic). But I feel, in order to properly review this album, I must respond to Pitchfork’s completely dumbassed review of it. My repsonse to their review should give you a good understanding of how I feel about it.
The Pitchfork review starts with some word-a-day calendar bullshit about how the Decemberists were always meant for an album like this, and that’s actually a valid point – and one I’ve made less pretentiously above. Then the reviewer apparently drops acid and decides that the blues-scale distorted guitar riffs on The Hazards of Love are “stoner-metal sludge.” Do they just have words in a hat over there, and they pull the words out and create new genres? Has this dude never listened to Led Zeppelin? Point being, there’s nothing remotely metal on this album.
But let’s set aside the music for a minute and talk about the plot of the album. Pitchfork says that, though it “has some nice twists, it’s not exactly Andrew Lloyd Webber.” Excuse me, Pitchfork? Yeah, I have a degree in theatre. If your plots are “not exactly Andrew Lloyd Webber”, it means that they’re “probably good.” As an example, here’s the plot of The Phantom of the Opera: an ugly (disfigured) guy likes a pretty girl. That’s it. The whole fucking thing. And some asshole sings “Music of the Night.” Andrew Lloyd Webber is to theatre what Judas was to Jesus (since it’s Good Friday) – a pile of money and some nails through the wrist. Fuck Andrew Lloyd Webber and fuck Pitchfork for holding him up as some sort of master of the musical genre. Haven’t you assholes ever heard of Stephen Sondheim?
And – what galls me further – is that the P-forker goes on to whine about how following the plot is “too much work, not enough payoff”, which he then follows with a smug-as-fuck (I seriously want to slap the sweater right off this dipshit) parenthetical “Hmm, imagine that“. Poor P-forker; it’s so much easier to just crank up Wavves and be hip without having to think. Dipshit. Anyway, here’s the plot of The Hazards of Love, which I discerned from 2 listens without reading the goddamn lyric sheet: Margaret is this lady who wanders through the woods one day and finds a fawn caught in a trap. She frees him, he turns into this dude William and they fall in love. Here’s the catch – William was abandoned at birth and rescued by a magical queen who wants him to be a mama’s boy forever, which is why he’s hardly ever allowed out of the house in human form. So she gets pissed at Margaret for deflowering her little guy and hires a murderous Rake (whose song, like all good villain tunes, kinda steals the show) to kidnap Margaret and have his way with her. William tries to rescue his true love and, spoiler alert, everyone drowns. Not too fucking complicated if you ask me, and the songs tie it together pretty well. Unless you’re a Pitchfork kid who’s too busy asphyxiating auto-erotically while fantasizing about a three-way with Sufjan Stevens and Dan Deacon, apparently.
Colin Meloy sings the parts of a Narrator, William, and the Rake. Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond sings the part of the Queen (and damn, does she have a great voice). Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark is Margaret. The songs, particularly “The Rake’s Song” and “The Wanting Comes in Waves,” are beautiful and some of the finest melodic work the Decemberists have done to date. In fact, The Hazards of Love is probably my favorite of their albums.
But I’m not done with Pitchfork yet – you know what the guy did that really pisses me off? This sentence: “As a turn toward metal, The Tain EP’s smaller portion was more satisfying– although, as mid-career change-ups go, this is still a fair piece more enjoyable than something like MMJ’s Evil Urges.” Fuck you, buddy. Evil Urges was a great album. Objectively speaking, you can’t gush over Wavvvvvvvvvvvvvves and say that Evil Urges sucks. Just because Pitchfork wants My Morning Jacket to be their Lynyrd Skynyrd (and Jim James has the temerity to want them to be our My Morning Jacket), doesn’t mean I’ll tolerate their besweatered dis of one of the best albums of last year. I don’t know how a writer of the caliber of Amanda Petrusich could stand to write for those fuckwits. Although, come to think of it, the last review of hers I read was for the Onion‘s AV Club. And, wouldn’t you know it, it was a positive review of Evil Urges. Suck it, Pitchfork.
As a bonus, a request my pal Zac sent to The Current, a radio station you definitely should listen to: