The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir

themagneticCaution: Do not listen to this album in full. It’s 2 1/2 hours long. You’ll hate it that way. Take it in chunks. (Personal favourite is 5 chunks cause it was released in 5 disks. Half hour bites.) 

Also, from the man himself: “I’m Stephin Merritt and this is my autobiography in 50 songs, one for each year of my life. It’s mostly love and music, so don’t dig for much of a storyline. And if things get mellower as 50 looms, that’s life.”

Stephin Merritt is one of the greatest living songwriters. I dare you to listen to “Book of Love” and convince yourself that this man is not a majestic songwriter. Go ahead motherfucker … make his day and fall in love.

His songs are witty, personal, fun, nihilistic (yep, that’s what I said), and the melodies are fucking incredible. He’s a one-man Beatle. He’s in cahoots with Harry Nilsson, John Prine, and Randy Newman. Yet, after his release of “69 Love Songs” he didn’t make the mark. In fact, I thought that was it for him. Then, this fucking album came out and he showed the world he can do it anytime he likes.

Stephin takes time. He does not roll down the throat with ease. That’s cause he’s not supposed to. It’s like medicine, it’s supposed to be a bit rough that’s how you know it’s working. It doesn’t make you dance, sometimes it’s not even “enjoyable”. I didn’t like him when I first heard him. His voice is untrained and he sings bass. Bass for god’s sake!

[Segway! —In pop, tenors can get away with being cute or interesting. Look at Thom Yorke. Sing one of the melodies an octave lower and you’ll sound like a complete fucking idiot. Never mind,  you won’t even be able to sing it at all cause nobody knows what the fuck he’s saying. Just saying as a friendly reminder, good melodies and solid lyrics are fucking hard as shit to do and even fucking harder to find. Trust me.] 

His instruments sound like they come out of a demented clown van. Who the fuck is this guy? You want to know? Easy. He put his life on record. So just listen. 

This album is an autobiographical masterpiece. He goes through it all: bad boyfriends, wishing his father wasn’t absent, being 3 and the cat not liking him, failing Ethics, times with his Mother, physical problems, being 13 and having a terrible fucking band, every nook and fucking cranny.

Then, Disks 4 and 5 arrive.

He said it would happen. It was in the fucking notes. But it’s still throws you for a loop. The songs get sad and mellow. The years start to bleed together. Being 50 must suck. Fuck, like, holy fuck. Who the fuck else has done this shit? (If anyone even suggests Adele, I will personally burn your house down and get R. Kelly a job at your local babysitting service.)

Is it a perfect album? Fuck no. Do you need to scrutinize every single word and moment? Again, fuck no. But the world needs more artists with this much drive and ambition, especially in the indie and pop game. Good solid Singer/Songwriters are so few and far between. And even if someone shows potential many just don’t have the staying power. Luckily for us, Stephin does. And he makes pop music that makes you think. I call it: thinking + pop = Thop. No, that’s terrible: Phink. Shit. Whatever, like I said before, lyrics are tough.

 

 

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