Review Summary: World War II, Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust, Anne Frank, Neutral Milk Hotel’s magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
World War II, Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust, Anne Frank, Neutral Milk Hotel’s magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
. Jeff magnum, lead vocalist and guitarist, stumbled upon Anne Frank: The Diary of Anne Frank
one day while looking through a bookstore. In an interview with Puncture Magazine two months prior to the release of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, Mangum spoke of how after reading the book, it’s gripping reality consumed him, how he cried his eyes out for days, and bizarre dreams seemed to haunt him in his sleep.
"I walked into a bookstore, and there was The Diary of Anne Frank. I'd never given it any thought before. Then I spent two days reading it and completely flipped out . . . spent about three days crying . . . it stuck with me for a long, long time. I would go to bed every night and have dreams about having a time machine and somehow I'd have the ability to move through time and space freely, and save Anne Frank."
In the thirteen years since the release of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, the record itself has garnered a massive amount of hype and critical acclaim, becoming a favorite amongst the indie/folk community. Utilizing a slew of instruments such as singing saws, horns, banjos, and keyboards, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
proves to be an odd, but charming record, with Mangum’s nasally powerful voice at the forefront and his vivid lyrics beautifully painting his feeling towards Anne Frank and her unfortunate end.
Every track on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
seems to hold it’s own ground whether it be a fuzzy indie-rock song, or a bagpipe and key oriented instrumental. Albeit not being the strongest album in forms of technicality, what carries this album throughout is it’s strong melodies and harmonizing of vocals and instruments, mainly working best in tracks where it’s just Mangum and his guitar. There are moments on the album that are beyond amazing and allow you to really connect emotionally with the record and in an odd way, connect with Mangum and feel his pain through his voice as it goes higher and higher, and eventually cracking from the strain of such passion being expelled from his lungs.
Title track In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
showcases Mangum’s abstract imagery with lyrics that talk about hearing Anne Frank’s voice.
What a curious life we have found here tonight, there is music that sounds from the street. There are lights in the clouds, Anna's ghost all around, hear her voice as it's rolling and ringing through me, soft and sweet. How the notes all bend and reach above the trees.
And lyrics that sound downright outrageous and only a man with such dreams could conjure up.
And when we meet on a cloud, I'll be laughing out loud; I'll be laughing with everyone I see. Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all.
Mangum proves to be a very eclectic lyricist throughout, and as twisted and crazy as some of the words he says may sound, they’re the words of a man who truly felt compassion. Holland, 1945
is delivered in a fuzzy, indie, punk sort of way and the lyrics speak of Anne Frank’s death just a couple of weeks prior to the British troops liberating the camp and in Mangum’s mind, her re-incarnation.
The only girl I've ever loved, was born with roses in her eyes, but then they buried her alive, one evening 1945. With just her sister at her side and only weeks before the guns all came and rained on everyone. Now she's a little boy in Spain, playing pianos filled with flames on empty rings around the sun.
A lot of the tracks carry their own weight in terms of emotion, but none come close to the eight-minute giant, in comparison to the rest of the album, Oh Comely
. Said to have been finished in one take, Oh Comely
is carried for about six minutes by Mangum’s painfully honest voice and guitar, singing lines showcasing Mangum’s sorrow towards Anne’s death, such as:
I know they buried her body with others, her sister and mother and five hundred families. And will she remember me fifty years later? I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine.
Until it reaches its climax and a beautiful trumpet solo joins and harmonizes everything perfectly, and a man screaming “HOLY ***!” at the end from the sheer raw power that the track contains.
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
is a journey itself, although it is only a quick forty-minute trip. Those who embrace it will experience an array of emotions ranging from happiness, to sadness and falling in love with the record although the basis/concept may not be the happiest. Jeff Mangum is a crazy lyrical genius and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
is one of the best records to have ever graced my ears and the ears of everyone who has fallen in love with the record. A hidden gem that has traveled it’s way through word of mouth. I hope Mangum putting down his guitar at the end of Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2
isn’t the last we’ve heard of Neutral Milk Hotel, and that in the future Jeff Mangum makes a comeback and gets the old band back together and make another record on par, or even greater than In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
. Until then, I will continue recommending this album to anyone who truly loves music, and I will continue to love the hell out of it myself.