Fans of The Decemberists probably know that the band has recently released a new album, The Hazards of Love, which is being billed as a “Rock Opera.” No surprise coming from The Decemberists who have been evolving toward prog rock for a number of years now. It’s really a logical next step for the band. Basically the story is about a pair of doomed lovers cavorting in the woods and the troubles they run into with a forest queen and some other bad dude/creature. Very Decemberists.
Now of course something like this could be real cool or just plan awful, there is probably be no middle ground here. So I was interested when I heard that the Decemberists were going to play the entire album at South x Southwest last week. Knowing I wasn’t heading off to Austin, I did the next best thing and checked out the podcast of their show from NPR.
[Aside, have you checked out the NPR live concert podcasts? It rocks! There is a ton of good stuff they have available, including a ton from SxSW. Besides recent shows there is a Leonard Cohen show, Radiohead, a bunch of others, I’ll be back to see what else is there. Here’s the link.]The thing with rock operas is that you need the words in front of you to get what the story is about so I was at a disadvantage right there. The Who’s Tommy is classic because it was recorded at that time when we all listened to albums. You could sit in your room with headphones going over the lyrics as the song played. (and yes if you lit a candle while listening to Tommy you would see your future). So I really can’t tell you how the story turns out in The Hazards of Love.
I can tell you however, that there are some cool songs here (some kinda of draggy ones too). It starts off slow but about a third of the way in, the band just connects. There are a couple of female vocals that are just wailers and one song where apparently there are 6 percussionists. Truly some heavy stuff here. The crowd, it appears is slow to warm up to what’s being presented to them, but by the end you can tell they were blown away.
I’m definitely going to look for the lyrics so that I can follow along because there appears to be some interesting music going on here. If you’re a Decemberists fan, there are some individual songs that you will undoubtedly like, rock opera or not. This however, will not be a big breakthrough effort by the band. But an interesting piece nonetheless.