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Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 10
Production 8.75
Creativity 10
Lasting Value 10
Reviewer Tilt 10
Final Verdict: 95%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.11
Musicianship 8.29
Lyrics 8.57
Production 8.07
Creativity 8.39
Lasting Value 8.43
Reviewer Tilt 8.5
Average: 83%
Inside AP.net

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Reviewed by: thespearkid (09/19/08)
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Record Label: Merge Records
Release Date: February 10, 1998


The public school system has always perplexed me. Everyday, America's school children are either fed misinformation about the world around them or are fed factual information that they're not mentally prepared to deal with. For instance, seventh grade is when we start to learn American history. We're taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America and that the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, as well as several other complete fabrications, when we'd be just as fine knowing the Vikings arrived in America long before Christopher Columbus ever did and that Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation did nothing more for the slaves than his original idea of putting all blacks on a boat and shipping them back to Africa. On the flip-side of the coin, seventh grade is when we're told about Anne Frank for the first time. At the age of twelve, none of us were able to grapple with the true weight of Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank's vivid transcription of living in an attic with her family in a fruitless attempt to avoid the horrors of the holocaust. However, Jeff Mangum of Netrual Milk Hotel, for whatever reason, never read the story in his younger years and wasn't exposed to it until he was very much an adult. After reading it for the first time in the late 90's, Mangum was floored with the beautiful tragedy of Frank's tale. His dreams were haunted with visions of the Frank family, often leading him to awake in a cold sweat in the wee hours of the morning. These emotions permeated his songwriting and in 1998 Neutral Milk Hotel released In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a pseudo-concept album detailing various emotions of the tale. It was to be Neutral Milk Hotel's last album and, unknown to Mangum, one of indie music's defining albums, inspiring such acts of Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire and the Dresden Dolls

The album's music is, for the most part, standard indie instrumentation. Acoustic guitars, buzz distortion, and various horns are scattered throughout the record, all backing up Mangum's definitive indie-folk vocals. Often times, the instruments will just strum a droning chord or two as Mangum's vocals dance melodically around the tonic ("The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two and Three"). Don't take the word "droning" too seriously though, as the album does have it's upbeat moments. "Holland 1945" may be the most exciting song about the holocaust ever written (sorry, Max Bemis, "Alive with the Glory of Love" will have to accept second place). Even when the music is simplified, Mangum's lyrics hold each song together. On some songs, I consider it an oddly fun game to try and pick out all the references to Anne Frank's diary in the lyrics ("The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One"), while on others it seems as if each line is more spine-tingling than the last, evoking goosebumps as Mangum makes the story of Anne Frank seem more real than our seventh grade history teacher ever could ("Oh Comely"). The title track momentarily drops the holocaust theme in favor of sending a message about appreciating youth. Even the albums instrumentals are fantastic pieces, whether they be solemn marches ("The Fool") or Cloud Cult-esque affairs full of buzz and effects ("Untitled").

It's no wonder why this album is held in such high esteem. While it is often looked at as nothing more than an album used by indie kids to make themselves seem more intellectual than the average music listener, this record is nothing short of genius. Although, at times, Mangum's vocals can drift a little too close to a drone ("Communist Daughter") or a little too close to an annoying yell ("Two-Headed Boy"), for the vast majority of the record, everything is spot on. The world of indie music is anxiously awaiting and hoping for more material from Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel, but with a record as beautiful and unique as this one, I wouldn't mind if he never put another pen to another sheet of paper. This brilliant work of art will be enough to hold me over until the next Jeff Mangum comes along and sees the true beauty in another work that many of us have cast off. Perhaps Animal Farm will get it's own album, or maybe that's just my own wishful thinking.

Recommended if You Likeindie/acoustic/folk music; Cloud Cult; a louder, folkier version of early Elliot Smith

neutralmilkhotel.net
 
Displaying posts 1 - 5 of 5
04:56 PM on 10/08/08
#2
gnp8472
sever your leg please
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a review of an album like this is useless. I'm not saying it's not good writing, I'm just saying it's pointless at this point to write an accurate review. Because, basically every indie band from about 2001 on has been influenced in some direct or indirect way by Neutral Milk Hotel. Therefore, comparing them to things that they themselves started is anachronistic, and downright wrong.

Trying to get into the mindset of someone from 1998 hearing this for the first time is idiotic, because for most music listeners we've already listened to the derivatives, so we basically know what the core product is going to sound like-- therefore, NMH can come as sounding like a typical indie band. However, they are not, and to fully grasp that we'd have to exist at this point in time... 10 years ago.

Also, I think you give too much credence to Mangum reading Anne Frank's Diary. It's been said in numerous interviews that much of his lyrical influence was taken from dream sequences he would have and then wake from and record, using a simple recorder he kept by his bed. Most of the other members of Elephant 6 did this as well. So I think giving Mangum a concrete starting point for his lyrics is also, kinda wrong.

Well written, but ultimately futile, and pointless (redundant, I know) review.
09:38 PM on 10/14/08
#3
thespearkid
Take Care.
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a review of an album like this is useless. I'm not saying it's not good writing, I'm just saying it's pointless at this point to write an accurate review. Because, basically every indie band from about 2001 on has been influenced in some direct or indirect way by Neutral Milk Hotel. Therefore, comparing them to things that they themselves started is anachronistic, and downright wrong.

Trying to get into the mindset of someone from 1998 hearing this for the first time is idiotic, because for most music listeners we've already listened to the derivatives, so we basically know what the core product is going to sound like-- therefore, NMH can come as sounding like a typical indie band. However, they are not, and to fully grasp that we'd have to exist at this point in time... 10 years ago.

Also, I think you give too much credence to Mangum reading Anne Frank's Diary. It's been said in numerous interviews that much of his lyrical influence was taken from dream sequences he would have and then wake from and record, using a simple recorder he kept by his bed. Most of the other members of Elephant 6 did this as well. So I think giving Mangum a concrete starting point for his lyrics is also, kinda wrong.

Well written, but ultimately futile, and pointless (redundant, I know) review.
Eh, I'd say that ten years later, giving an album a fresh review isn't pointless at all. The difference between great albums and classic albums are how well they hold up to the test of time but if we all stopped reviewing classic albums, they'd be no way to tell how well they're holding up in the public eye.
08:49 PM on 10/15/08
#4
gnp8472
sever your leg please
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Eh, I'd say that ten years later, giving an album a fresh review isn't pointless at all. The difference between great albums and classic albums are how well they hold up to the test of time but if we all stopped reviewing classic albums, they'd be no way to tell how well they're holding up in the public eye.

To see if they stand up to the test of time is not to review it again in the same style as it was 10 years ago. The cd hasn't changed, the perspective has. So, do a retrospective about its importance; not a review. The excellence hasn't changed. In fact, it's grown, and retrospective would be better. IMO
05:45 PM on 02/16/09
#5
KingJohn_654
You've Got Spiders
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im listening to this album right now. Classic.
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