Oh how strange to be anything at all

Of the 22 votes cast in the Spill Poll, fourteen folk had never heard of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” – and seven declared it hands down one of the best albums ever.  
Personally I view it as a staggeringly beautiful work of heart-breaking genius, something intangible and impossible to describe, so I’m here’s a summation from Pitchfork’s top 100 albums of the 90s list, where this was number four (ok computer, loveless, and the soft bulletin occupy the three spaces above, which speaks volumes);

“There are very few albums that resist categorization quite so effortlessly as In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. For forty staggering minutes, Jeff Mangum short-circuits all conventional modes of expression, forging a private language that is endlessly intriguing and haunting in the truest sense of the word. Mangum sings as if possessed, painfully conveying fractured and moving tales with the imagistic skill of a brilliant novelist. He gnashes his teeth at the fabric of time, then wraps himself in it like a blanket, channeling the violence of his personal past through a claustrophobic frustration with his dejected present. His band, whose contributions to Aeroplaneremain criminally underappreciated, elevate Mangum’s songs from chilling sketches into vibrant opuses, fully realizing the antique otherworldliness of Mangum’s storytelling.


Opening with the achingly gorgeous nostalgia of “The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1″,Aeroplane immediately plays upon a potent conflation of cultural and personal past. The world of Aeroplane is haunted by Anne Frank– the specter of childhood’s unimpeachable innocence amidst the unfathomable horror of the holocaust. In the feverish “Oh Comely”, Mangum longs to save her in “some sort of time machine.” By “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2″, the album’s indelible and heartbreaking closing track, he seems to have resigned himself to loving a ghost, singing with a thoroughly unnerving blend of heartbreak and exhaustion: “In my dreams you’re alive, and you’re crying/ As your mouth moves in mine, soft and sweet.” The way people have been affected byAeroplane is ample proof of its power and uniqueness. Like all classic art, it is widely misunderstood; yet to some, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has become a riddle the likes of The Wasteland– an impossibly rich text that begs to be deciphered, yet continually evades any singular interpretation.”

*

It took me years to click with Neutral Milk Hotel, as Jeff Mangum’s voice can sound awful in passing, but when it did click – my god! It was like like the clouds parted and angels in party hats slid down a huge slide from the heavens, made out of rainbows and joy. 

I’m also finding it hard to choose a song to post, as there’s no official youtubes for any of them – so I’ve gone for the simple option:

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7 thoughts on “Oh how strange to be anything at all

  1. Interesting that you came back to this vote result, Blimpy.22 votes – 7 best ever – 14 never heard = 1 Who’s strangling the cat?Er, that’ll be me then! Admittedly you did hit the nail on the head about JM’s voice, but my biggest problem with this is that the whole album juST SOUNDS LIKE IT IS SHOUTING AT THE TOP OF ITS VOICE! ARE YOU GETTING ME YET? NO? RIGHT, I’LL JUST SHOUT EVEN LOUDER THEN AND TURN UP ALL THE DIALS SO THAT THE NEEDLES BURY THEMSELVES IN THE RED!!! It’s like an LP version of Dom Joly’s mobile phone sketch, and I HATE it.Really, there was no need. Compare and contrast with On Avery Island’s Song Against Sex, Where You’ll Find Me Now, or even the instrumental Marching Theme, which manages to impart discordent wooziness without the Marshalls at Spinal Tap level, and I like it.Aaahh! Glad to get that off my chest.

  2. I was feeling a bit fragile (self inflicted from the night before) when I wrote this post, and in part ITAOTS did grate a bit – and when I listened to On Avery Island straight after it was more pleasant and, you’ve hit the nail on the head there too, woozy. I love woozy. It’s good to vent, eh? Now about Thom Yorke’s whiny voice…..

  3. I liked it, Blimpy. I think it requires and deserves more listens than I’ve had a chance to give it, but… I actually liked his voice. It seems like part of an american indy tradition of guys with something to say that can hold a tune but aren’t crooners…Dylan, Stipe, maybe more recently Elvis Perkins. I’ve always been attracted to that kind of voice. And I like the horns. And I like how the music becomes richer as it goes along. But I have to listen to it again–I haven’t had a chance to pay attention to the lyrics, for one thing. Thanks for posting.

  4. Holy shit! It’s only taken me three years. I just found this on spotify and can’t stop listening to it! It’s mother flipping genius. Whoa. I should listen to you in a more timely fashion next time.

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