Something Is Not Itself
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Magnetic Fields - "Strange Powers"

Stephin Merritt (the creative force behind the Magnetic Fields) cites Abba as his favourite band. I do not. I do, however, cite The Magnetic Fields as one of my favourite bands. Can I not hear ABBA in the Magnetic Fields? I can. I hear elements of ABBAESQUE gaudiness and saccharine poppiness. But the Magnetic Fields set these elements in a wholly (and holy, mind you) Merrittorious context. ABBA does not have lyrics like these:

"In Las Vegas where the electric bills are staggering,
the decor hog-wild and the entertainment saccharine.
What a golden age, what a time of right and reason,
the consumer's king and unhappiness is treason."

And Merritt isn't just channeling ABBA, he's turning the sound on its head. He creates from the pop showiness of ABBA and the dense harmonies of the Beach Boys, as well as the simple and melancholic melody of Joy Division, something entirely his own. He creates his own world of seedy Ferris Wheels, cotton candy, electric lights. And he manages to pull off that most difficult of feats: to mirror the whimsy of his lyrics in his music. This is all perhaps best exemplified by the triple album 69 Love Songs but is also present on the more easily swallowed Holiday from where I pulled this track.

"Strange Powers" also kind of feels like a contemporary pop "I Wanna Be Your Dog," but that might just be me.


Flying Saucer Attack - "In The Light Of Time"

Let's say some people on a ship off the coast of Blackpool had been sailing around for maybe a few hundred years and lo and behold discovered a four track cassette recorder. And let's say one of the sailors was a sage. Then I guess they probably would have fashioned some guitars and harnessed the music of the seas, as well as the spheres, and recorded "In The Light of Time."

Or let's say some flying saucers came down from the skies and attacked the Earth not with beams, but sheets of snail-paced, pastoral and delay-drenched drone-folk, then that would be a Flying Saucer Attack.


Posted by Jordan at November 18, 2004 6:25 PM

Classic Magnetic Fields.
"Under more stars than there are prostitutes in Thailand" I never get tired of that album.
Your writing on Flying Saucer Attack, new to me by the way (thx), made me giggle. I am no longer in a crappy mood.

Posted by Glading the Wanderer at November 18, 2004 11:35 PM

I like FSA when they just dissipate into hiss... good for driving at night (if you aren't scared of dying). The miles go by and at some point you realize you missed the transition from the music into silence.

A good day, Jordan.

Posted by rodii at November 19, 2004 10:17 PM

Nice work -- both for conjuring up my wasted youth (ah, the lamented vinyl revival of the misty early nineties!) as well as for that amazing lyrical link from Merrit's " a flying saucer landing.." to Flying Saucer Attack.

I bought the first FSA single when it came out (on VHF) on the strength of a simple, handwritten sticker from Mike "Slumberland" Schulman. It read, simply, "SUPERIOR NOISE POP".

Good times. Now I feel old.

Posted by Anonymous at November 20, 2004 12:35 AM

check out KVRX, UT's College Radio, for acoustic Mag Fields songs.

Posted by Andrew at November 20, 2004 3:00 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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