CD reviews: The Decemberists, Papa Roach, Eric Church, Pearl Jam

BY DI ARTS STAFF | MARCH 24, 2009 7:30 AM

The Decemberists delivers its most intricate story yet

The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love
*** out of *****

What makes indie-folk band the Decemberists stand out from the crowd is its distinct ability to tell a story with its albums. After more than two years since the band’s last release, new album The Hazards of Love offers a new narrative with poetic lyrics and a plethora of instruments.
What is most evident from this album is how the Decemberists approaches the style of the music from many different angles, including the way tracks transition through each other, each lyric’s diction, and the album’s overall tone. By fitting these aspects together, the band’s members truly show their creative skills as musicians.

The Hazards of Love follows a girl named Margaret and her “true love” William while introducing other characters along the way, among them a forest queen and a promiscuous acquaintance.
“Prelude” is the first thing listeners hear and is the most haunting track on the album. It provides a hint to the organ and string instruments that are present in the rest of the album’s tracks. “Prelude” then slinks into the first rendition of “The Hazards of Love,” which sets up the lovers’ story with more of a folk tone behind the intricate lyrics, which are then carefully placed in a kind of verse or rhyme.

As the tale continues, the Decemberists triumphs on more lyric-less tracks while experimenting with a diverse group of instruments, including the bouzouki — an instrument similar to a mandolin that gives off a signature folk sound — and the banjo.

The Hazards of Love also has its rough spots. “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid,” a confrontation between William and the forest queen, represents the two characters with different beats, going back and forth in the song, competing to overpower the other. Both rhythms are strong by themselves and would work better as two individual tracks.

The Hazards of Love is a representation of the imaginative ways music can be interpreted. The album shows the Decemberists creating a style all its own and offering a different kind of musical experience to its listeners.

Kelly’s Picks: “The Hazards of Love 1,” “Interlude,” and “The Rake’s Song”

— by Kelly Diggins

Papa Roach is morphing into something all too familiar

Papa Roach : Metamorphosis
** out of *****

The world first saw Papa Roach come barreling into the rap-rock scene that was so fertile at the end of the last millennium. Since then, the band has tried to adapt to the ever-changing face of popular music, but it has been struggling to do so these past few years.

Let’s face it, hard rock has gotten quite limp as of late, and with Metamorphosis, Papa Roach really isn’t doing too much to help salvage it.

In fact, if you listen to Metamorphosis from start to finish, it begins to sound like a perfect hybrid of Buckcherry and Hinder. Just what the world needs.

Metamorphosis starts out fairly strong, with tracks that are much more guitar-heavy — and consequently less radio-friendly. You most likely won’t hear a song such as “Change or Die” making its way onto the airwaves. “Live This Down” and “Carry Me” are two other standout tracks that have the melodic prowess to garner a decent sense of interest from music fans.

The rest of this album is not inventive in the slightest. Papa Roach seems like it has a lot to say, but doesn’t quite know how to say it. There is very little depth, save for maybe a couple requisite tracks about love gone sour.

One may stop to ponder, “Have I heard this song before?” Chances are you have, only with a different name attached to it. The mainstream radio vibe of Metamorphosis is a bit overwhelming, making it a bit hard to believe this band was much more ferocious back in its heyday.

Whether this new sound will work for Papa Roach is hard to tell. This formula has obviously worked for others of the same musical vein, but this band may be just enough past its prime for a whole lot of people to really take notice.

Rebecca’s Picks: “Change or Die,” “Carry Me”

— by Rebecca Koons

A tough-guy shell with a sweet, mama’s-boy center

Eric Church: Carolina
**** out of *****

Eric Church has presented himself as a charming Southern gentleman with a tough exterior since his introduction to the country world in 2006. This genuine approach to his music has made him successful, along with peers such as Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, and even more legendary acts along the lines of Alan Jackson.

Church’s sophomore album, Carolina, is a continuation of the roller coaster of emotions that fans heard on his début release, Sinners Like Me. The image of a regular guy with everyday problems, joys, and heartbreaks rings loud and clear, which is ultimately his most appealing attribute (aside from those puppy-dog eyes). The sound of this album is fresh and upbeat and definitely shows potential for major crossover appeal, as he often toes the line between country and rock.

Carolina kicks off with “Ain’t Killed Me Yet,” an ode to the woman who did him wrong, the mantra of “what doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger” ever present. Fortunately love on the rocks isn’t the only way he talks about the subject, as “Love Your Love the Most” clearly states.

Of course, as you probably anticipated, this regular Joe is certainly rough around the edges. Tracks such as “Young and Wild” and “Longer Gone” paint this image perfectly. It is clear just from the lyrical content of Carolina that Church is — or at least knows of — a man who is respectable and hard-working but also knows not to take himself too seriously.

Church is the epitome of a good guy looking for a good time — not to mention a pure, no-frills musician who deserves much more acclaim for his honest outlook.

Rebecca’s Picks: “Ain’t Killed Me Yet,” “Longer Gone,” “Carolina”

— by Rebecca Koons

Ten rocks harder almost 20 years later

Pearl Jam: Ten — Reissue
****1/2 out of *****

Here’s a chance to relive the days of flannel shirts, long hair, and teenage angst, complete with a soundtrack by the Seattle band Pearl Jam, which came to prominence in the early 1990s.
Pearl Jam reissues its 1991 début album, Ten, allowing fans to choose from four different packages. Ten is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant and successful rock débuts of the past 20 years — with legendary tracks such as “Alive,” “Jeremy,” and “Even Flow.”

Each new reissue package includes a digitally remastered version of the original Ten as well as a new remix of the CD by the band’s longtime producer, Brendan O’Brien. His interpretation of Ten is refreshing for fans who have grown weary of the original album’s sound. The remix generally stays true to the original but is much more refined. The guitar is less muddled, and listeners actually may appreciate guitarist Mike McCready more than before.

O’Brien’s remix also includes six previously unreleased songs, including an early version of “State of Love and Trust” that is sure to make longtime Pearl Jam fans smile. Vedder also improvises lyrics on “2,000 Mile Blues” and shows off his amazingly distinct voice.

The Deluxe edition includes both the remastered original and O’Brien’s remix along with the band’s 1992 episode of “MTV Unplugged.” The performance has become rock lore, as Vedder wrote “pro-choice” on his arm while standing on a bar stool during the song “Porch.” Seeing a young and beardless Vedder belch, grunt, and groan will give hard-core Pearl Jam fans goose bumps.

All four of the Ten’s reissue packages are part of the band’s 20th-anniversary celebration.
The reissue offers anyone who was too young when Ten was first released to now become a fan of the classic album. Although it is a reissue, it is refreshing to hear rock and roll with an edge.

Dan’s Picks: “State of Love and Trust,” “Black,” and “Brother”

— by Dan Watson

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