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In the Aeroplane over the Sea

In the Aeroplane over the Sea

In the Aeroplane over the Sea

  • Rock

Neutral Milk Hotel ~ In The Aeroplane Over The SeaLed by Jeff Magnum, In the Aeroplane over the Sea finds the Neutral Milk Hotel assemblage loosely performing a series of narratives backed by folksy acoustic guitar. But from that springboard, a quiver of instruments (horns, organs, accordions, saws, banjo, zanzithophone, etc.) are layered into a sometimes rootsy, sometimes lo-fi, and often psychedelic mix. Contrary to most pop experimentalists, NMH songs stretch way past the two-minute mark: “Tw

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3 Responses to “In the Aeroplane over the Sea”

  1. Michael Alexander says:
    504 of 545 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Fabulous, but not for everyone, January 16, 2002
    By 
    Michael Alexander (New Haven, CT United States) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: In the Aeroplane over the Sea (Audio CD)

    Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you’re listening to Aeroplane for the first time, having heard nothing at all from this alternately praised and despised album. The first thing to notice is the faintly catchy acoustic strumming of “King of Carrot Flowers, part 1″. In bursts a slightly nasal voice that was never intended to sing, an odd accompanying wind or brass instrument that strangely matches it, and nonsensical lyrics reminiscent of Syd Barrett but with more sex. Just when you’re getting used to this little piece of quirk, Part 2 begins, and a lo-fi electric guitar begins arpeggiating uncertainly. The voice is back, and this time it’s nigh-excruciating as singer Jeff Mangum belts out “IIILooooooovveYYOOOOOOOOOUUUUJEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESUSCHRIIIIIIISSSSTT” in a register far above his capacity. At this point, the listener either runs screaming, never to touch the album again, or (and this is the path you follow) s/he “gets the joke” and bursts into fits of laughter; Mangum sure has balls. Aeroplane gets mentally filed into the “Novelty” section.

    No sooner do you dismiss this act as a good joke than Neutral Milk Hotel shatters the conception by bursting into the dreadfully catchy and piledriving near-punk of Part 3. As a plethora of sounds and instruments clank and whirr along, the band reveals its ace in the hole, a brass band that brings even more of a mad, carnivalesque tenor to the song. Maybe this band can rock after all, you think, however weirdly. Could they possibly be _serious_?

    The final piece to the puzzle comes with the next two songs. The affecting (and affected) “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” is quite possibly the finest piece of music ever recorded involving a musical saw(three-part saw harmonies, no less!), and the surreal lyrics finally coalesce into a theme, as fine a musical take on “carpe diem” as I remember in rock. By the time Two-Headed Boy Part I rolls around, the songwriting’s become almost unbearably good, the singing’s become almost unbearably strained, and the instruments have just gone nuts. The sense of yearning is palpable, but something odd’s going on. Sure, there’s the acoustic guitar being played as violently as in any punk song, but is that the brass band shifting into a New Orleans funeral march? Indeed!

    The remainder of the album is a kaleidoscope of oddity, pain, love, young sex, Anne Frank, flowers, flames, spines, and death. Rather than being any one of the the things suggested in the previous paragraphs, Neutral Milk Hotel is ALL of them. Mangum is joking lightly and deadly serious, celebratory and mournful, mad and sane, sober and wild. Illustrating the contradiction are the songs that can make me cry even though I couldn’t understand the lyrics if my life depended on it. This album encompasses it all, and just when it all seems like it’s going to fly apart, the tortured conviction of Mangum’s voice and the utter catchiness of the music win out. _Aeroplane…” is a terrific album if you’re willing to accept it on its own terms, and I pity anyone who misses out on it; in all the flailing weirdness, it somehow becomes universal.

    PS: The voice becomes incredibly endearing after enough listens.

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  2. Ray Radlein says:
    75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    one of the best cds i’ve ever heard, June 30, 1999
    By A Customer
    This review is from: In the Aeroplane over the Sea (Audio CD)

    I read a CMJ review of this album sometime last year; I vaguely remembered it, and stored the name in the back of my head. Then a few months later, I saw it listed in about a million top 10 lists for 1998. Then one day I bought it on a whim, having never heard it (something I never do). I guess luck was with me that day.

    Though it’s futile to describe the music on this record, I’ll try. It’s an insane mix of distorted bass, horns, saws, theremins, and other strange sounding instruments and a guy who’s got one of the most honest voices you’ll ever hear. The pace alternates between mostly acoustic ballads (something i usually despise) and caffinated garage rockers. Mind you it all sounds like it was recorded in 1935. It’s literally like nothing I’ve ever heard; and i’m mostly into punk, so this is something i never would have listened to given the description. but hell, good music is good music, and this is some of the best you’re likely to find.

    Now many people say lead singer/musical genius Jeff Magnum’s voice is “unlistenable.” It may not be polished, but how many singers out there take vocal lessons? If they did, everyone would sound like Boyz II Men. This man has a voice that makes it sound like he means what he is saying, and it may be an acquired taste, but by no means unlistenable.

    This disc is like a punch in the stomach (a good punch); you can feel what Jeff is saying. And that’s something that so few musicians are able to do. I own over 500 cds; I’ve heard every type of music imaginable; and this is right near the top of them all. Believe the hype, the good press, because this album is absolutely amazing.

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  3. Anonymous says:
    132 of 145 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Like Icarus, July 31, 2004
    By 
    Ray Radlein (Atlanta) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: In the Aeroplane over the Sea (Audio CD)

    I had to buy a second copy of this CD.

    One day, as I was leaving work, my original copy of the CD broke open its jewel case and leapt forth in a daring and quixotic bid for freedom which was cut tragically short when it skidded to a stop, butter-side down, on the rough pavement of the parking lot.

    In retrospect, given the nature of this CD, I was not surprised that it had made the attempt; indeed, the only surprise is that it did not succeed, and rise up into the distance to sail the endless skies forever.

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