Review Summary: a distortion of his guitar, but little else.
As a constituent of Stephin Merritt’s discography, Distortion
is perhaps the most thematically simple – the usual Magnetic Fields’ brand of lo-fi indie pop, but with distortion
. However, its simplicity is not a detractor, and the light-hearted approach to various emotions through sickly sweet fuzz is nothing but a complete success. What is apparent is that there is a definite dip in the lyrical profundity of Merritt’s songs post-69 Love Songs
. This is not to say that the songs on later albums are bad
, simply that the constant barrage of wit from his magnum opus obviously wasn’t completely sustainable. Now this is firstly a very general statement, and also a relative one – Merritt remains witty in every one of his records, and his ‘less witty’ is merely in comparison to his most.
isn’t as crafty as the recently released Realism
, there is no shortage of good songs, from fun and boisterous to reflective and sentimental. Like any Magnetic Fields record, some songs stand out more than others, but different listeners will find each of them appealing for completely different reasons. The over-romantic flavour of Merritt’s music that we all love is still very prominent, as is seen in ‘California Girls’ or ‘Xavier Says’, but the lyrics, as is the case of the latter, are very tongue-in-cheek:
Xavier says/ "Ha ha ha / we have nothing in common / See you round / Ta-ta / Slink back to your abomin- / -able lover, Zsa Zsa / before I blow your cover / tra-la-la"
Zsa-Zsa's scene: / "Tacky queen, you think there's no one but you / Get your crass little ass / out and don't make me cut you / With how much you / talk you'd think that someone else was listening / Want a drink, Miss Thing?"
is the most musically distinct record in Merritt’s repertoire – there is a substantive lo-fi element in the album’s constant layering of feedback and obsession with reverb. None of it is overbearing in the least and does not detract from the inherent ‘indie pop’ factor that is so essential to the Magnetic Fields.
So what is Distortion
? It’s another indispensable record from Merritt. It takes the simple conceptualising of i
and furthers it (an ongoing process, as seen with Realism
), adding to Merritt’s gamut of sun-drenched and moon-weary songs. To take a step down from such a monumental record as 69 Love Songs
poses a plethora of problems – fans will naturally consider these ‘lesser’ albums as somewhat inferior, but they need to be taken as they are, which is more of Merritt. And how can we deny his genius when he pens lines like these?
Sober, life is a prison
Shitfaced, it is a blessing
Sober, nobody wants you
Shitfaced they're all undressing
Sober, it's ever darker
Shitfaced, the moon is nearer
Sober, you're old and ugly
Shitfaced, who needs a mirror?
Sober, you're a Cro-Magnon
Shitfaced, you're very clever
Sober, you never should be
Shitfaced, now and forever!