March 19, 2009

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The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
Capitol Records, March 24

If thou dost seek, in thy quest for jibber-jabber dusty-library-indie, a kludgey, indie-sounding new missive from Decemberists that harkens back to pre-major-label tunes like “16 Military Wives,” thou shouldst bug off elsewhere.

There’s no reason for the band to step backward anyway, with plenty of mainstream fans eagerly awaiting them wherever their “Dr. Herring’s brand Dirigible Balloon” may land; cred is no longer an issue, they’re eggheads, the end. Their literary ambitions, however, don’t disappoint in this entry. The Crane Wife, their first for Capitol, centered around a Japanese folk tale and included some Zep influences, but this time they’ve busted open the K-Tel Sounds of the ’70s and gone for it, cleverly arranging their pieces to accentuate a storyline centered around a woman who’s been ravaged by a shape-shifter (furries start showing up to mingle with the pirate guys at Decemberists shows in 3... 2...). There was always something Ten Years After about these guys, and “Hazards of Love I” is as close to “Here They Come” as they’ve ever dared, which is sort of nice in a Paleolithic way. The Eagles’ “Victim of Love” as interpreted by Freddy Mercury is the rough idea behind “The Wanting Comes in Waves,” and “The Queen’s Rebuke” is the LP’s metal thing, Deep Purple in color, done up with a Kirk Hammett-like guitar solo. Truth is, mainstream fans who’ve avoided anything indie out of fear could quickly learn to love Decemberists, down to the Creedence-vs.-Arcade Fire of “The Rake’s Song” if not the zydeco-ized Blazing Saddles campfire-beans waltz of “Isn’t It a Lovely Night.” AEric W. Saeger