The Hazards of Love


It’s not very often I hear any new music that really excites me, partly because I don’t go out of my way to find it, and partly because there’s just too much of it. But I was recently introduced to The DecemberistsThe Hazards of Love album, and it completely knocked my socks off. I’ve long been a fan of creepy, creaky acid folk (since I heard the Lammas Night Laments CD series), and was certainly not expecting to hear anything new in that admittedly narrow genre. Well, not since The Eighteenth Day of May knocked it on the head, anyway.

The Hazards of Love has been compared to the music of hoary old long in the tooth prog folk rockers Jethro Tull, and I can hear that, but only in a couple of lurching moments of guitar and organ interplay. The thing is, a folk rock concept album (!) about a fair maiden, her shapeshifting lover (!!), infanticide(!!!) and a fairy queen (!!!!) is exactly the sort of thing people think the Tull got up to. However, they never did, and even in their explicit folk rock period of the late 70s, their songs were shot through with a sardonic air that never really took traditional music at face value.

Having said that, The Decemberists’ album is a fantastic piece of work, variously subtle, thrilling, and melancholic. Taking a look at their website I noticed that they have a “Fan Art” section, (which is a rather charming idea – I bet Buckcherry haven’t got one. Come to think of it, that’s probably a good thing). So I was sufficiently inspired to illustrate (this may be considered a spoiler) the spookiest bit of the record.  A fanboy I may be, but if there’s an opportunity to draw some dead children, I say go for it.



  1. Chris Doherty

    Spotting this has really freaked me out, because I’ve had the exact same image in my head since I heard “Revenge!”. I dared not try and draw it because I didn’t think I could do it justice, but you’ve done an amazing job here. I’ve kept the second half of the album on constant repeat on my ipod for about two months now. “Isiah fought, but was easilly bested..”

    A lot of fun’s come out of my trying to understand every little lyric. Still not 100% there. I was thinking the faun at the start was poor Isiah, but after further listening it ended up being William or whatever..

    Fantastic piece, anyway. Have you got a larger version of the pic I could maybe drape as my desktop background?

  2. s_perrins

    Hi Chris – thanks for that. If you had the same image in your head then it could be that we’re both equally twisted. I originally drew Isaiah as the smallest because for some reason it was like that in my head but when I listened back to it implies he was born first so I had to stretch him.

    I think the faun was William, but I agree with you that there are bits of that album that are a bit opaque – Colin Melloy’s gone on record as saying that the story is made up of various common themes from existing traditional songs – so you’ve got the jealous fairy queen from Tam Lin and Thomas The Rhymer, and the shape shifting demon lover appears in songs like House Carpenter and Reynardine. I only really know the basics of that genre though so I bet a real enthusiast would instantly recognise everything.

    I don’t know if it’s a song, but there’s an old tale told in The Sandman about a Rake who kills his wife and kids, and then they end up rising from the dead and dragging him to hell or something equally cheery.

    Glad you like the pic. The people who run The Decemberists’ website clearly don’t because every time I send it I get an undeliverable message. Maybe their e-mail is just flaky but it doesn’t do wonders for my self esteem! If you want a copy you can just right click the pic to save it or open in a new page (bigger than it appears here as it’s only displaying at half size or something). However if you have one of those massive monitors, let me know the kind of screen size you need and I’ll send you out a version that’s big enough.

    It is a brilliant album though!

  3. Jamie

    Don’t take the delivery failure personally, it’s been doing that for ages. I’ve got an amazing Decemberists tattoo I’ve been trying to send a picture of since I got it in January, but still it always denies me.

    Anyway, I think this is a really great depiction of what has rapidly become an essential album in my world. I’ve been a bit obsessed with them for a while, but I was truly impressed by Hazards, which inspired me to by not 1, but 4 tickets to different shows on their upcoming tour. 🙂

  4. Mathew

    Wow. I saw this as I was searching google for tattoo ideas from this album and this came up. This an amazing picture. I can see them in this state singing the song together. Brilliant job and I hope that they accept your drawing.

  5. Simon

    Cheers for that Mathew. I must get round to drawing The Queen one of these days…

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