Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Paperback
by Kim Cooper
Part of the 33 1/3 series
Of all the recordings to emerge from the Athens-via-Denver collective called "Elephant 6", Neutral Milk Hotel's second album is the one that has worked its way under the most skins. "Magnet" magazine named it the best album of the 1990s, and "Creative Loafing" recently devoted a cover story to one fan's quest to understand why bandleader Jeff Mangum dropped out of sight soon after "Aeroplane's" release.
The record sells steadily to an audience that finds it through word of mouth.
Weird, beautiful, absorbing, difficult, "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" is a surrealist text loosely based on the life, suffering and reincarnation of Anne Frank, with guest appearances from a pair of Siamese twins menaced by the cold and carnivores, a two-headed boy bobbing in a jar, anthropomorphic vegetables and a variety of immature erotic horrors.
Mangum sings his dreamlike narratives with a dreamer's intensity, his creaky, off key voice occasionally breaking as he struggles to complete each dense couplet.
The music is like nothing else in the 90s Indie Underground a psychedelic brass band, its members self-taught, forging polychromatic washes of mood and tribute. The songs stick to one narrow key, the images repeat and circle back, and to listen is to be absorbed into a singular, heart-rending vision.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 144 pages, Illustrations
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Publication Date: 15/11/2005
- Category: Rock & Pop music
- ISBN: 9780826416902
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by mattmallard
I felt like this captured a lot of information about the band, the locales, and the album without distilling the life from it, which I was worried about. This book covers the early years of the band, as kids in Ruston, and the Elephant 6 Collective up until recently. I love that it is written by a person who had/has a zine. It has that feel to it, which brought back all sorts of awesome, pre-everything-is-online memories. It actually rekindled my excitement about this album, which is my all-time favorite. The magic of all of the participants making art and music with one person sort of at the center comes across very well. I could have done without the lyrical interpretations, but that is a personal thing.
Review by TheAmpersand
Kim Cooper's 33 1/3 entry on the Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea shouldn't be considered definitive: heck, an entire book -- or maybe a blog -- could be written about just the album's influence on its fans' lives. Still, it seems like she spent a good deal of time with many of the people who contributed significantly to this album's creation, and much of her research likely preserved a lot of you-had-to-be-there storytelling that might have been lost otherwise. There are interesting bits on Robert Schnieder's role as producer and unofficial band member and entertaining stories about how the loose, energetic collective that was Elephant 6 recordings held together and provided its members with a lot of mutual support and encouragement. I think that Cooper's book will probably appeal most to rock listeners who like to think of bands as alchemical experiments of a sort and albums as the unique products of specific times, places, scenes and people that fall together more or less at random and are helped along by a lot of effort and a little luck. This book provides a pretty good snapshot of one bunch of talented people -- arranged around the appealingly sincere, still rather withdrawn figure of Jeff Mangum -- who came together to create something really extraordinary.