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Another Portland Blog

Sunday, March 22, 2009

 

The Hazards of (Savage) Love

Dear Savage Love,

I'm a young damsel living in a fictional fantasy world. The other day I was merrily skipping through the woods when I came across an injured fawn. I rushed to its aid and it transformed into a strapping, young lad. I allowed the fire of my loins to trump my otherwise upstanding moral fiber. Caught up in the passionate embrace of this mystical (and quite virile, I might add) woodland creature, I completely forgot about using protection. Now I've got a shape-shifting bun in my oven and I'm in love with its father. What should I do? I fear my unborn might decide to transform into an elephant in utero. And how might I best relate this unusual turn of events to Father?

Signed,

Probably Pregnant With Bambi




There's enough fodder in the Decemberists' The Hazards of Love, to fill a dozen of Dan Savage's advice columns. I'm sure this letter would earn the album's heroine Margaret his standard, go-to response: "dump the mother#@#! already." Of course, she doesn't do this, plunging her further into an hour-long musical odyssey involving an unrepentant con man, a wicked forest witch, ghost children and power cords aplenty.

If a folk-rock concept album that mixes equal parts Little Red Riding Hood with Juno sounds ridiculous, well, think back to the plots of The Wall and Tommy. Not to reveal any spoilers but, at no point, does Margaret form a cult centered around pinball machines or spend any time in a metaphorical courtroom lorded over by a gigantic butt-shaped magistrate.

Like those albums, The Hazards of Love is grand in scope, ambition and marinated in pretentiousness. Singer-song writer Colin Meloy took the kitchen sink approach here. On top of slide guitars, harpsichords, banjos and pump organs there's a kiddie choir straight out of "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2." The music deviates from country to folk to metal to chamber music to prog rock to any given Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and back again.

Like the band itself, the album shouldn't work but it does and it does so harder than a hundred chimbley chimney sweeps. Is The Hazards of Love relentlessly cheesy, cheeky, dark and unlikely to win the Decemberists any new fans? Probably. For those that can handle the not-so cheery subject matter, there's "The Rake Song," the best (and likely only) radio-friendly pop song that will ever be recorded about flicide. FYI: according to this, the Decemberists average death count per song currently stands at 0.92. I wonder how that number stacks up against Johnny Cash's catalog.

And how long until a local theater group decides to produce a stage version?

Grade: A-


The Hazards of Love is already available on iTunes and will be released in stores on Tuesday the 24th. The band will be at Music Millennium that evening for a signing and will play the McDonald Theater in Eugene on May 21st and at the Sasquatch Festival on May 23rd.

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