Friday, January 18, 2008

Outsideleft:The Magnetic Fields and The Disturbance in the Force

The Magnetic Fields


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about The Times (not the paper, but the era, the Now) and what do we have to show for them? What does anybody ever have to show for them? Did screaming teenagers at the airport swooning over the Beatles think this is a defining moment of culture? If they did, were they right? I am of the opinion that the best era for music, for art, for everything is Now, because it is the only time that has potential. Everything else is at best freshly dead, and mostly existing only in faded and distorted memory. Tomorrow perpetually fails to exist until it’s too late and all we have is now. I wish I was a younger man with a dour Goth girl to lay all this on.

But railing against the waves of nostalgia is as pointless as Emperor Xerxes bullwhipping the ocean for sinking his ships. The times are pyramids, sonic piles of the dead, mathematically exact even with eons of weathering with us at the point at the top. You’d think there would be something with more grandeur perched atop the triangle of labor and death, but no, it’s just us.

I’ve in the past looked to Stephen Merritt of Magnetic Fields in times like these where cynicism and optimism cross swords. 69 Love Songs is a Vorlagenarbeit of these vectors, a summit of pop conceptualism. He took the titular limit 69 as a bracket and wrote love song after love song to fill that number with likely a 69% success rate. His follow up to that, 2004’s I – fourteen songs all starting with the letter i, tracked in alphabetical order, all played on handheld instruments – had some great songs on it, but the conceptual rigor of it felt a little forced, evidenced by the fact that the stand out track “I Don’t Believe You” was rearranged and fleshed out in superior form on the single. Still though, it’s a good effort, and at least somebody is thinking about what they are doing. Read More....

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