The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea

The first quarter of 2012 feels odd and nostalgic. Already there are releases by bands which I have, at one point, idolized. These release, of course, then challenge my perceptions and beg me to reevaluate legacy and legend. The 2012 releases from Islands, Of Montreal, Leonard Cohen, and Crippled Black Phoenix, for good or ill, have thrown proverbial wrenches in the metaphorical cogs of music history. Nothing will be the same. At this point I arrive at Magnetic Fields, a band which has come to define not only indie pop but my personal outlook on love and hate.

Like most bands of this first quarter, The Magnetic Fields are remembered for a lifetime of work but more specifically one album. 1999’s 69 Love Songs was a triumph in the arena of relational analysis. Spread over 3 discs and 3 hours, the 69 tracks examined the various aspects of love which ultimately overlapped into apathy and general disdain. The band accomplished this feat by telling stories through androgyny and varying levels of sarcasm. It was the most romantic thing in the world. The Magnetic Fields followed 69 Love Songs with three albums which were a conscious departure to 69’s synth heavy style. The subsequent releases (I, Distortion, Realism) were excellent exercises in experimentation which journeyed through the lands of janglepop and folk acoustic. Love at the Bottom of the Sea returns to the world of 69 Love Songs with short synth driven ballads of love and loss. Prepare to get excited.

Like most Stephin Merritt projects (Future Bible Heroes, Gothic Archies, The 6ths), the first time through any album is marked with quirky indifference. The lyrics are odd, the songs are short, and there is always a melodramatic spirit. Go through the album again and things will change. Love At the Bottom of the Sea is addictive with every listen and at the end of the 10th or 11th will be your new favorite record. Stephin Merritt is joined by his cast of familiars for a record of nostalgic progression. Claudia Gonson, John Woo, Sam Davol and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snickett) retain their ensemble positions for an album of tragic comedy.

One of Magnetic Field’s strongest attributes is their grasp on lyrical subject matter. While every song has to do with relationships, the perspective and context of each song is unique and varied. “The Machine in Your Hand” professes the desire to be reduced to a mechanical object in a long distance relationship. “Id Go Anywhere with Hugh” turns a small play on words into a complicated love triangle with her, you and Hugh. Even silly songs like “Goin’ Back to the Country” feel profoundly poetic with lines like “We are going to wind down to country road / and play this dulcimer until this world explodes.” Merritt and his team have stranglehold on the English language which is bent to sardonic lengths at their will.

You maybe asking the wrong person to review this. I have been a proud member of the Magnetic Fields fan club for quite sometime. The band has surpassed 20 years in existence without, according to me, a poor record. Some of the criticism for this album is directed twards the back peddling after three great albums of innovation. I do not know what everyone’s problem is. It is fine, actually it is amazing. Leave us now.

God Wants Us to Wait
Andrew in Drag
Your Girlfriend’s Face
Born For Love
I’d Go Anywhere with Hugh
Infatuation (With Your Gyration)
The Only Boy in Town
The Machine in Your Hand
Goin’ Back to the Country
I’ve Run Away to Join the Fairies
The Horrible Party
My Husband’s Pied-a-Terre
I Don’t Like Your Tone
All She Cares About Is Mariachi

The Magnetic Fields - Love at the Bottom of the Sea, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2012-05-09T06:44:35-07:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

Comments are closed.