Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Realism is not always good policy

I'm gradually making my way through the haul of books, DVDs and CDs that I purchased in London.  Probably foremost amongst those has been Realism, the [almost brand] new Magnetic Fields album.  I've been keen on the Magnetic Fields since I watched the last episode of season one of The Shield, which is a strange way to come to find a quirky singer-songwriter considering romantic misadventures.  But then what isn't romantic about seeing a bald-headed Angryman* charging around in despair, to the sound of "All My Little Words"?

It took me a while to discover the song, very little time to download it, but it wasn't until I was utterly boozed beyond my brainpower in a flat in Deptford with my very good friend Jenny, that I found out she was a Magnetic Fields aficonado of old, and it was then that I heard 69 Love Songs, and it was only then that I was smitten.

With 'The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side', that is. I could never, ever, ever be smitten with anyone whose name was Jenny or any variation, and certainly not if she hailed from anywhere in North America.

Ok, that's not strictly true.

I can't resist those Mexican Jennys. Arriba!!

Anyway, while I reconstruct my relationships in the wake of that comment, let's think of Distortion, a filthy, fuzz-guitar filled bright pink beast of an album, with some touchingly sad and heartfelt gems among it all: and finishing up with the wonderful Courtesans, a slow pondering of aged misery. It's the tops. It's the bees knees.

Realism ditches the fuzz in favour of real, undistorted instruments (hence the name) and starts with the epically vicious You Must Be Out Of Your Mind, like a over-literate I Will Survive (sans the odious disco) that manages to get the word "appendectomy" into the first chorus. And then ... And then I can only think that Stephan Merritt has been having too happy a life for his own good, because the rest of the album is cheery and sweet, and, well, almost saccharine. Which is a strange word to apply to the Magnetic Fields, who felt lachrymose (or sarcastic, when they were being cheerful) at the best of times. And they were the best of times.

And the worst of times.


So it's a bit rich really to chastise a person for their happiness. And maybe I should pay attention to the lyrics. But really, admit it - who is there that ever liked happy endings?

* Like an Everyman, but ANGRIER.  Like Grant Mitchell from the halcyon days of EastEnders.  Or this chap called Alvar who used to drive a digger in Kent to construct mountain bike courses, who would occasionally come up with conversational gems like this:

Alvar: "So I parked the van up, and this traffic warden came up to me.  I said to him, 'don't give me a ticket, or I'll have to fill you in'"
Person B: "So what happened?"
Alvar: "... I filled him in."

Although on reflection, Alvar seemed rather laidback, rather than the angry chap that his bald head and lack of neck implied to a casual observer.  Possibly too laidback when it came to health and safety - he tried to demonstrate dancing while using two shovels as makeshift stilts once, leaving everyone running in fear of having their feet sliced off by razor sharp shovel edges.

Ah, those were indeed the days.


Post a Comment