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NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
(Blue Rose)

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A SICK AND DEMENTED FELLOW LIKE JEFF MAGNUM shouldn't normally be let loose on the drinking public. Since he's a singer-songwriter, however, who fronts the fervent and twisted Neutral Milk Hotel, his worldview has to be taken to heart, and any disturbing aberrations blamed on his craft.

Like 'Holland, 1945', for example, wherein the only woman the protagonist has ever loved has been buried alive with her sister by her side and been reincarnated as a boy playing piano in Spain. But then, things are rarely ordinary with this Athens, Georgia-based group...

Least of all Magnum's voice. A sort of stylistic mumble that runs up and down the scale and seems all over the place, it is perfectly suited to Neutral Milk Hotel's see-sawing electrified acoustic folk. And when used for colourful Freudian insults on 'Oh, Comely', it even takes on an hysterical quality that can be endearing. Better still is his obsession with pronouncing the word 'semen' (on 'Two-Headed Boy' and 'Communists Daughter') which suggests something ain't quite all there with Jeff.

Pathos saves Neutral Milk Hotel from being a complete oddity. There's the New Orleans funeral march pastiche of 'Fool', but the real, bruising sadness comes in the way NMH collectively evoke tragedy in 'Ghost', a tale of someone's death while fleeing a 14th-storey blaze. And this is what makes the whole odd and convoluted musical journey worth embarking on.

6/10

Dele Fadele


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