I love when I can be literal and metaphorical at the same time… Although this title could just be taken literally… It’s November and I just got to see four out of five of The Decemberists play and then hang out with a few of them after the show. Whichever way you want to take it, I like it!
Sunday night I had the extreme pleasure of seeing my old friend John Wesley Harding play at McCabe’s in Santa Monica. His new album The Sound of His Own Voiceis right up there with his best and maintains the brilliant sense of humor I got to discover first hand in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1987. He has such a keen, observational wit that presents itself so cleverly in brilliant songwriting and gorgeous melodies. Check it out!
With him now on tour are the incorrigible Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5 and The Baseball Project), Peter Buck of R.E.M. and four out of five members of the stellar band The Decemberists. There was Nate Query on bass, Jenny Conlee-Drizos on keyboards and accordion, John Moen on drums and Chris Funk on pedal steel, banjo and guitar… They are all multi-instrumentalist bastards! (Read the loving but envious tone).
The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
The Decemberists made the blog back in April with their amazing album The King Is Dead. But I have to say, every one of their albums is an ambitious and astounding recording. As I have gone back and listened to Castaways and Cutouts, The Crane Wife and this one I am simply blown away. Their music just wraps me up and washes over me in the best possible way. Sorry to gush, but screw it… I love this band!
If you have not been to McCabe’s you are crazy… It is a cozy and intimate setting, amongst walls full of stringed instruments and is like watching a private concert in your living room… okay, the living room of a very wealthy friend who collects guitars but still…
I will admit that as much a fan as I am of The Decembersists I have not seen them live. It is not for lacking of trying. Believe me! I missed the shows at the Greek AND the Hollywood Bowl because I was out-of-town. And now, of course, they are on a three-year hiatus. Story of my life, right… And yes, I am actually and literally kicking myself right now… Ouch!
Indie folk/rock with a strong vein of Americana… Influenced by some of my favorite bands and artists… Robyn Hitchcock (playing McCabe’s on Jan. 21), The Replacements, my old, but recently found again ’80s love Guadalcanal Diary, and of course R.E.M. and The Smiths. On this one I actually hear a little Duncan Sheik and Spring Awakening… I do.
AllMusic says this of the band:
“Led by Montana native Colin Meloy, The Decemberists craft theatrical, hyper-literate pop songs that draw heavily from late-’60s British folk acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle and the early-’80s college rock grandeur of the Waterboys and R.E.M.”
Hello… you know I also love me some Richard Thompson AND The Waterboys!!! Do not know Pentangle… On the list now!
The Hazards of Love is a rock opera in all its glory. Jim James from My Morning Jacket is one of the many guests… I’m seeing them on Dec. 1st at Gibson Amphitheatre!
This album’s scope is huge, and it’s power is on that same level, but it always feels intimate and special.
AllMusic says it “is ambitious, pretentious, obtuse, often impenetrable, and altogether pretty great.”
They continue… “Harking back to the late-’60s/early-’70s offerings from bands like Pentangle, Horslips, ELP, Steeleye Span, and the Incredible String Band, it makes no apologies for its nerdy, prog rock musicality, and convoluted narrative.”
First off, I do not know any of those bands… Well… ELP, of course… I have a lot of new music to seek out. Second, I agree with the prog rock of course… one hears that right away… but I do not think this one is impenetrable… far from it. Maybe I do not know or understand the whole story, but the songs are stunning. I dig it… and I dig their other, more traditional folk-rock-pop efforts, too.
You have to challenge your audience and fans every once in a while. That is what makes music exciting and artistic… In my mind, they succeed on all their records.
This is a smart and wonderful band that embraces musical theatricality in the best sense. And the band members I met are the most normal, down to earth, cool folks… Their talent is incredible, but hanging out with people and just chatting about life and other things lets you know who they really are.
I feel comfortably closer to December and yes, closer to four-fifths of The Decemberists!