Finishing up classics week with a review of Neutral Milk Hotel’s seminal In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. What do you think of this album? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next, eh?
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hi everyone Anthony Fantana here internet's busiest music nerd and this video is the last review of classics review week Neutral Milk Hotel in the aeroplane over the sea originally I was not planning to review this album I even kind of made a video about how I wasn't planning to review this album and why I was talking about the virally infectious and sometimes ridiculous cult status that this album has I asked you guys what you thought about it and you let me know and some of you made some really convincing arguments talking about how the people who are making a mockery of this LP are in the minority and if that's all I address I sort of let them win I'm sort of making a mountain out of the molehill of jokes that there are around the internet in regards to this album and not making a video where I kind of focus away from those things hurts this album more than it helps it plus the thing is reviewing this album really isn't that big of a deal an album is really only as important as you make it out to be so Neutral Milk Hotel was an experimental indie and full crock banned from Ruston Louisiana they only came out with a couple albums in their very short discography and the second that they dropped just so happens to be one of the most celebrated releases in underground music released back in 1998 people still go nuts for this album and it just has this staying power that not a lot of releases see but for me it's it's not hard to understand why I think this album has a lot of great qualities going for it this thing has a really bold sound built out of inspiration from noise rock from psychedelic rock and folk music hailing from Scotland Eastern Europe and America plus there is a heavy in luhan's coming from the 90s lo-fi rock scene contemporaries like guided by voices and said oh so this album definitely has a lot of influences going for it but on top of that it's extremely well arranged colorfully arranged with singing saws and horns and accordion keyboards bagpipes as well and plus the usual suspects are here acoustic guitar warm heavy distorted overblown bass and some really hard-hitting drums too with all these different sounds and textures in the aeroplane over the seat perfectly complements heaviness and noise and aggression with tenderness and beauty it's a style the project really built up to with a handful of demos and a debut album on Avery Island Avery is not the preferred album but it shares a lot of elements within the aeroplane a lot of the songs on here have similar chord progressions a very low fie and overblown sound influences from folk music psychedelic rock music and very surreal lyricism to all it was really missing was this just cohesive theme when I listened to in the aeroplane over the sea as opposed to Avery Island I feel like I'm really partaking in a story plus in the aeroplane just had this grand Jubilee of horns and just all this extra instrumentation to really kind of bring it to a next level plus in the airplane really has a a daunting a daunting sadness that just is hard to deny and it's hard to deny because it just does not let up almost every song on this LP looks for a different way to advance that feeling so funny is that sometimes I don't even know why this album gets me so emotional and and I guess I say I don't know why because it's not like I really get a clear clear and totally comprehensible story out of any one of these songs of course people have read interviews that talk about what has inspired these lyrics but what inspired these lyrics and what these lyrics actually are are two different things I just prefer to take the lyrics as they are the less you know the more disturbing they kind of become the imagery is so vivid and yet when I actually try to imagine what Jeff Mangum is singing about on these tracks it's like my brain has this malfunction it's like does not compute we really remember I mean how exactly does one picture a little boy in Spain playing pianos filled with flames it doesn't look like that no the lyrics are really where this album hits hardest for me I think everything else on this LP is great but it wouldn't add up to as much as it does if it wasn't for Jeff Mangum using his lyricism to build from scratch this really surreal world of two-headed boys ghosts tomatoes and radio wire the abstract imagery on this thing is so out there sometimes it rivals the fantasy world created in the book Alice in Wonderland the stories sometimes just feel so nonsensical but for me they have such a huge emotional impact anyway with all these themes of death and God and love and genocide and war and saving somebody's life and intimacy and family and all these stories are delivered in Jeff Mangum's kind of nasally voice it's it's weird it's like there's no stomach in his voice whatsoever it's like it's all up here and on a good chunk of this album he's like kind of straining his voice partially out of trying to reach the higher points of his register and partially because he's just forcing himself to sing so hard and so loud the dude must have a massive lung capacity because if you actually try to sing along with this album you'll see it's it's pretty difficult sometimes it's like the dude will go a whole verse without taking a breath I know there are some people out there who don't like Jeff's voice and are not going to like Jeff's voice but I enjoy it has a unique tone to it and he's on pitch for the most part and he just showcases a lot of personality and a lot of passion another critique this album often gets is it's simple simple chords simple songs simple melodies it's really simple but you know I think that's kind of an odd point an album being bad because it's simple I mean this thing is pretty funky it's not exactly looking to be technical overly progressive or anything like that but I do see the complaint you know if you've been playing guitar consistently for a year you can most likely play every single song on this album if you were handed the chords but I think the simplicity issue is a little overblown I mean take for example the way the king of carrot flowers part two builds up so noisily and so heavily into part three or the way the song ghost escalates towards its finish line not every album and band can do that stuff the greatness of these songs doesn't come out in their blueprint of the the chords and the melody is written out on a piece of sheet music the greatness comes out and their performance take the title track for example the chords over the verses in the title track are the same exact chords to that famous doo-wop song earth angel in fact they're the same exact chords to that little ditty that you hear at the end of every single one of my reviews same chords same chords however Neutral Milk Hotel 'z take on these chords doesn't sound anything like those two other songs it's layered to be really kind of noisy and sweet with these singing saws and and a nice trumpet solo lots of fuzzy acoustic guitar strumming and I love the melody that Jeff is belting out with his voice to all of these elements just make me feel so happy and kind of uplifted despite the fact that some of the lyrics are kind of morbid every track on this album does bring a little bit of a different feeling for me though even though the total package to me is is kind of sad personally the king of carrot flowers parts two and three the way the song just busts into this high-speed distorted bass and drum part it's really thrilling it's like riding a bicycle down a really steep hill at 50 miles an hour and you've got no brakes the song two-headed boy even though it's really acoustic and stripped-down there's not a lot to it it sounds so urging and just fiery the song the fool is a great instrumental it's really lumbering it's just really depressing it's got this Balkan brass kind of feel to its style it's like a funeral march and the song oh come Lee later on that album makes that feeling just even heavier and all of these different emotional and sonic highs and lows just flow together so nicely the king of Kara flowers part one is a fantastic opener it's kind of like opening up a book it's like the the call me Ishmael love of indie music and the transition into parts two and three just starts with this really kind of ominous drone it's almost as if I'm listening to a string section in a pit orchestra just lay on this constant note building up to something really epic the heavily arranged an instrumental fool is a great partner to the strip down at the strip down and simple two-headed boy the loud and furious Holland 19:45 is put up right against the slow and soundscape e communist daughter and the track ghost just kind of breaks into this great untitled instrumental bit that's just like a musical explosion of bagpipes and heavy drumbeats and bass and song two-headed boy part two it's it's just like the perfect closer it's the last page complementing the first page that was king of Kara flowers part one there's just a lot of tension and release on this album a lot of hot and cold highs and lows this thing is always taking a different turn with its next track there's not much else I can think to say about this album it's just fantastic it's cohesive there's a lot of different flavors on here as well somatic and make memorable surreal and ambitious and it brings a range of different feelings out of me it just excites me it depresses me it inspires me and soothes me all in one 40-minute listen I think it's a great album I'm going to continue loving the hell out of it for the foreseeable future and you know keep in mind I'm not saying you have to like it I'm not saying you have to think it's amazing I'm not saying you have to buy into the hype I think this album has its flaws sure if you like your songs to be more straightforward more readable less kind of abstract I could understand that if you like your music to be a little more complicated a little more progressive I can understand that but what's important is that if you haven't heard this album take a listen to it and form your own opinion what does this album mean to you how does it make you feel let me know Anthony Fantana Neutral Milk Hotel in the aeroplane over the sea forever you