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> ALBUM - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, by Neutral Milk Hotel.
post Apr 16 2007, 11:35 PM
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Don't Call The Dustman

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Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

“Never heard of it” is the response I expect from most of those of you who have ventured in here to read this review. “So why should I read it?” is what I hear next. Well, it is obscure and coming up for ten years old, but the reason you should is that if you like music with guitars in it, it may very well turn out to become the best thing you’ve ever heard. It used to be when someone asked me what my favourite album was, I’d argue the merits of a few in my head and come up with a top five. No longer. The question has become a complete no brainer.

A little history. At the beginning of the year I was playing away from home on the Flaming Lips forum and found a thread titled “The Soft Bulletin vs OK Computer vs In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” demanding people rank these three (supposed) classics. OK Computer regularly ranked last (many said not even the best Radiohead record). Predictably, The Soft Bulletin ranked first a lot, but there were a significant number of members who ranked In The Aeroplane… even higher. Now as TSB is one of my favourite records, I decided I ought to check this other one I’d never heard of out. So I did.

Reading reviews I discovered this previously unheard of record was the music geek’s ultra-obscure album of choice. Granted, some music geeks consider it to be a load of rubbish, but it’s possible they dislike it purely to be geekier than thou. It quickly appeared in my basket on a popular online shopping site and a few days later it dropped through my letterbox. It was immediately listened to, and my brain will never recover.

Initially, much of sounds like the musical equivalent of an enormous pile of rubble dropped from a great height. Even on the simplest tracks, strange noise battle for your attention. Drums, brass and accordions threaten to swamp the guitar on others, and sometimes fuzz seems to have been applied everywhere. The singing doesn’t strike you as that good either. However, even on that first listen, you hear shining moments, and after a few listens you realise that that pile of rubble has defied statistics and has managed to form the aural equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. What initially sounds like a mess has become perfect without you noticing the transition. When you stop listening to it you find yourself humming the short vocal-less tracks with instruments you can’t quite identify that should be filler. Lyrics that appeared nonsensical are now a beautiful stream of consciousness that Conor Oberst can only dream of. The references to Anne Frank feel right even though you can’t quite put your finger on why, and you love the mutant child who lives in a jar and is building the strangest gift of love ever like he’s your own. If you’re as sad as me your life becomes divided into pre and post hearing the record, and you wonder how you ever considered yourself a music geek without having heard it and why it took you so long to find out about.

To me it’s the closest to a perfect thirty nine minutes and fifty one seconds of music I am ever likely to hear. If I’d heard it before the Tape Loop started, I’d have included it as a bonus CD (one track would be far too difficult to pick – it has to be heard as a complete record). I’ve been spreading it amongst my music loving friends for the last few months, and without exception they’ve loved it and spread the word further. A reviewer on Amazon said that if they had the money they’d by 1000 copies and put them through people’s letterboxes. I might start leaving copies in the CD players of cars I hire when I return them at the end of my holiday, and even if just one person finds it and falls in love, I’ve done my duty, as I am with this review.

Hear it, love it, pass it on.
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Kick in the Head
post Apr 19 2007, 03:10 PM
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Cent Dix-Sept

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I keep getting Neutral Milk Hotel recommended to me based on my Last.fm playlist, but only really listened to a couple of tracks popping up on my recommended radio. But now I guess I'll have to check them out properly. Oh, and get both OK Computer and The Soft Bulletin while I'm at it (yes...I'm a bit slow on the uptake, got the 2 recent Flaming Lips albums and a smattering of Radiohead...but I'm getting round to it, I swear).
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