06 March 2007

Best Album Ever (WSN's weekly throwback review)

Neutral Milk Hotel / In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

The curtain peals back to reveal Jeff Mangum's voice, double-layered for texture, riding a start-stop acoustic guitar rhythm. The hum of an accordion gently glides parallel to a story of a royal, albeit carnal, romance. So begins the journey of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea."

The stage has been set for the musical three-ring circus to follow. Full of ragtag lyrical characters including a two-headed boy, Anne Frank and Jesus Christ, musical diversity is matched lyrically step for step as organ, flugelhorn, singing saw and zanzithophone diversify the wall of fuzz that exists at the album's chaotic core.

Mangum is ringleader, crooning and warbling his way through tales of ghosts and synthetic flying-machines, each track combining dizzying layers of instrumentation. Mangum and company have not sequenced a collection of songs, but have crafted an album in the truest sense of the word by cementing each song in a distinct context of characters over music that is both haunting and tuneful.

Most notable about "Aeroplane" is the distinction between creativity and pretension. Never eccentric for the sake of being so, every otherworldly sound builds melody and every abstract lyric piques curiosity.

Both seminal and overdetermined, "Aeroplane" is as much acoustic guitar as deafening fuzz and equal doses of impassioned howling.

Before the curtains close for good on the album and ultimately the band's career, Mangum's encore, "Two Headed Boy Part 2", will shatter your heart and make you long for the warmth of a parent or lover.

When Mangum's guitar is dropped and the studio door is heard closing, the only thing left to do is play it again.

Washington Square News Link

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