Tim Dunlop came to blogging fame with The Road to Surfdom. He was then snaffled by News Limited where he ran Blogocracy. In 2008, he declared a retirement of sorts, but he’s back in the saddle for Crikey with our first music blog:Johnny’s in the Basement.

Here’s his first music review.

The Hazards of Love
The Decemberists

As this is the first CD review for the new blog, I’ve chosen something that I am absolutely gooey in the fork about. I love this album. Seriously love it. Which is odd in that I’ve never listened to the band before and only happened upon it after catching a bit of clip of them on The Colbert Report. But I love this album. Let me count the ways.

First up, it’s a concept album. A concept album! It has a concept—a story—connecting all the songs, and it goes on for a whole album. Concept. Album. Yay. Is there anything daggier, this side of Kevin Rudd in shorts? Daggy in the sense that it doesn’t lend itself easily to the single-song download mentality of iTunes commodification.

The album is a throwback.

The lyrics tell a story and the music repeats and develops themes and riffs as it goes along. You really do have to listen to it as a whole. Which is not to say that there aren’t stand-alone songs that reward in their own right—as the clip below will testify—but at the end of the day, the individual songs are not the point. It’s really one big song, and to download a single track in isolation would be like falling in love with someone then cutting off their arm and taking that home to meet your parents and expecting them to understand why you love the person. Concept. Album. Trust me.

And what is the concept, I don’t hear you ask? Oh, just the usual medieval tale of debauchery and infanticide that you might expect from a bunch of guys obviously obsessed with English folk music and the bucolic fantasies that tend to drive one wing of that genre. I’m only guessing, but I reckon Dungeons and Dragons might be broken out during breaks in rehearsals, and if Colin Meloy, who sings, plays guitar and wrote nearly all the songs, hasn’t got the extended DVD versions of the Lord of the Rings movie on a shelf somewhere, I’ll eat one of my three copies of the book…

Read the whole review at Johnny’s in the Basement: Music for grown-ups who remember when they weren’t

Peter Fray

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