Release Date: Jan 15, 2008
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Stephin Merritt, the wry, sonorous bard of downtown New York, has made yet another lovely contradiction of an album, Distortion, both wintry and lush, buoyant and black-hearted. Poetic sentiments like ”Sober life is a prison/S—faced it is a blessing” (”Too Drunk to Dream”) and ”I want to be a topless waitress/I want my mother to shed one tear” (”The Nun’s Litany”) are wrapped in woolly layers of Pet Sounds swoon and shot through with jangling boy-girl harmonies — the perfect antidote to a season of false cheer and frozen toes. A-DOWNLOAD THIS: Stream ”Please Stop Dancing” at the Magnetic Fields’ MySpace .
Stephin Merritt has quite openly admitted that his newest offering is an homage to the Jesus and Mary Chain, and indeed this does sound a hell of a lot like Psychocandy. The strings and pianos are still there, but buried under a bed of reverb-drenched distortion and shrieking feedback. Considering how unique and iconic an album Psychocandy was, borrowing so heavily from it could have ended up going very badly.
Review by Ryan Weibush.
Stephin Merritt celebrates all that is fuzzy, sexy, and drenched in reverb on Distortion, a 13-track rendering of the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy through the barbed sieve of the Magnetic Fields mastermind's seemingly endless notebook of relationship dos and don'ts and self-effacing cognitive therapy sessions. The unwavering decision to match the production with the album title is admirable, but one that will no doubt filter out the listeners who rely on Merritt's simple, clean melodicism to reel them in. By mirroring the lo-fi sunshine goth aesthetic that the Reid brothers so effortlessly beat into the ground in the mid- to late '80s, Distortion becomes more about style than substance, often burying the lyrics in an avalanche of mud that clings to each instrument (be it cello, Farfisa organ, accordion, or guitar) like pet hair on a pea coat.
Mordant and perversely romantic songwriter Stephin Merritt is one of those artists you either love or hate. And your opinion probably bears a direct relation to how feel about Morrissey. Both men trade in impossibly clever, deceptively simple sing-alongs about love’s bitter depths and delirious peaks. Merritt’s idiosyncratic pop act The Magnetic Fields have captured many a farouche heart, and for good reason.