When ‘The Decemberists’ released ‘The Hazards of Love’ back in 2009 I had one of those rare but glorious musical experiences. It was an overwhelming love for a piece of music that meant absolutely nothing else was played in my household for months afterwards, except for the aforementioned LP. It was the first thing I listened to when awoken and the final piece of music that would usher me to sleep. The circumstances for the next release ‘The King is Dead’ pretty much mirrored that of its predecessor and the memories of the summer months of 2011 will always have a Decemberists soundtrack associated with them (run VT of author skipping hand-in-hand with attractive girlfriend through fields of flowers with ‘June Hymn’ playing softly in the back-ground).
And so it was with a child-like excitement that I un-wrapped my review copy of ‘What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World’ and began to envisage my next six months of Decemberists ladened memories. Or so I thought.
‘What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World’ is a bigger, more varied release than its predecessors. Under most circumstances that would normally make for a better album; the bigger the better … right? However, this quickly proves not to be a case and the phrase “size isn’t everything” certainly seems to be a more accurate description. The album borders on tedium and the lack of any originality turns what should have been a career defining album, showcasing a more matured band at their peak, into an album that one would simply class as “middle of the road”.
Am I too attached to the past albums? Were my expectations set too high? Sure, there are aspects of both to consider; along with the fact I’m 4 years older and my musical tastes may have altered. However, I’ve got my journalistic hat on here and I’m not only looking at this from the perspective of a critic but also as a member of the record buying public, and if I’m honest I find myself getting lost in the mundaneness of some of the music on offer.
Of course there are bound to be positive moments on an LP with this much material. Allow yourself to be drawn into glorious world of ‘Philomena’, vigorously tap your foot to the glorious ‘The Wrong Year’ and then succumb to the seduction of ‘Mistral’. Finally, dust off you Stetson and leather chaps and enjoy the western sounding ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’; a track that offers something a little different ensuring it stands head and shoulders above its stable-mates. However, these moments are few and far between and are lost on an album that is overlong, drawn out and dare I say monotonous.
And so, for the time being it’s back to the vinyl collection and to ‘The Hazards of Love’ for me.
The full track-listing for ‘What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World’ is as follows…
The Singer Addresses His Audience
Make You Better
Till the Water’s All Long Gone
The Wrong Year
Better Not Wake the Baby
Easy Come, Easy Go
A Beginning Song
You can see ‘The Decemberists’ at one of the following venues…