Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Decemberists

  • The Decemberists Present Picaresque [Kill Rock Stars, 2005] *
  • The Crane Wife [Capitol, 2006] *
  • The Hazards of Love [Capitol, 2009] C

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Decemberists Present Picaresque [Kill Rock Stars, 2005]
Know less about history (and literature) than they think they do, but more than their students ("16 Military Wives," "On the Bus Mall"). *

The Crane Wife [Capitol, 2006]
Recognized for well-dressed poesy, remembered for well-camouflaged hooks ("The Perfect Crime No. 2," "Summersong"). *

The Hazards of Love [Capitol, 2009]
Derided in such varied precincts as Pitchfork, Blender, and Entertainment Weekly when it stuck its head out of the quicksand last March, The Hazards of Love looked to be where Colin Meloy's obvious bad points permanently swallowed his subtle good points. But still the thing finished top 30 in The Village Voice's big critics' poll, so I can remain silent no longer. Except insofar as Colin Meloy's antiquarianism permits him to use such words as "withers" and "blackguard" (which he pronounces "black-guard"--real pseudo-Elizabethans say "blaggard," Colin), evokes online gaming and crypto-genteel '60s folk ensembles more than it does any kind of literature. He has the conceit to elevate melodies that are the musical equivalent of doggerel into mini-motives. His plot is so preposterous and unempathetic it's more the appearance of a plot, or an elaborate joke about a plot. And yet some fool in Britannia's highly respectable Observer thinks this album is "as dazzling as it is beautiful." Be vigilant. Be ever vigilant. C

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