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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Magnetic Fields
Distortion
Nonesuch

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


January 17, 2008
69 Love Songs, The Magnetic Fields' three-volume concept album released in 1999, is the rare musical experiment gone so horribly right that it nearly completely disintegrates anything else released by the artist, before or after. Even the annoying genre interludes like "Experimental Music Love" or "Punk Love" had such a winning sense of purpose they were hard to hate. And the real tunes, well, they were the stunners that a tour de force of love songs damn well better promise. Find me a man not bowled to tears by "The Book of Love" or sweetened to cheering by "The Night You Can't Remember" and I'll buy the fucking liar a hearing aid.

So in the wake of 69 Love Songs we in criticland understandably get a bit crabby dissecting Stephin Merritt's follow-ups. i: too egotistical! Look, i was great up until that wrenching second half. "In an Operetta," oof. I'm willing to soften up for the new Distortion on the charge that it's not 69 Love Songs. It's not even a concept record; the title's there to tell you of its recording process and not much else. There's no distortion in Merritt's shallow hatred of the title annoyance in "California Girls," or his ultimate decision to weigh the pros and cons, sober and shitfaced, in "Too Drunk to Dream." The music may be drowned to the hums in static worthy of Kevin Drumm, but the sentiments are wry and plainspoken as ever.

Love is still encountered, as always, but even more monosyllabically than usually befits a wunderkind of deadpan's métier. "Three-Way"'s whole lyric is the title. The track brings you no closer to having one yourself, or even concluding that Merritt is indulging in ménage à trois, but it captures a warped jolliness nonetheless. "Old Fools" is hardly more than a long, beautiful sigh that "old rules take the backseat to new romancing," but it's still beautiful. He might not have another 69 left in him, but the man still knows a thing or two about love, even if it's passed him and his feedbacking fuzzboxes by.

Distortion is really a triumph of the evening-out. Nothing reaches out and kisses (or kisses off, for that matter) like "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend" or "I Don't Believe You," but not a one approaches a foot of the unlistenable nadir of the solo Showtunes. What's important is that even as tempos slow to a crawl on "Mr. Mistletoe," the return to melody every which way is worth the gush. Tunes like "Xavier Says" seem more forgettable than they are, buried under all that crafty studio mud, until they return like a boomerang in the sandwich line or something. Just try and make "Drive On, Driver" blink in this regard. Likewise, if "Too Drunk to Dream" doesn't do it on first listen, get yourself too fried to cry and try it dancing. It's a blessing, shitfaced or not.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss

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