The Magnetic Fields
Love At The Bottom Of The Sea


3.5
great

Review

by Ali CONTRIBUTOR (130 Reviews)
March 14th, 2012 | 13 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "A pity she does not exist, a shame he's not a fag... The only girl I ever loved was Andrew in drag."

Although you're safe in the knowledge that you're following one of the most charming and dependable bands in the indie world, being a fan of The Magnetic Fields can still be mightily frustrating. This emotion stems largely from the fact that Stephen Merritt constantly places checks and barriers on his own creativity, and although this has resulted in some wonderful achievements the argument that he's distilling his own outrageous talent is equally compelling. 69 Love Songs is obviously the prime example of this somewhat curious approach paying dividends, but the synth-less trilogy of i, Distortion and Realism released since have fared less well, with numerous instances of Merritt's genius weighed down by a lack of consistency brought about by such restrictions. The gems within those records were worth the price of purchase alone, but all three left a distinct sense of what could have been, and to all intents and purposes, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is a continuation of that pattern.

As it happens, this 10th studio album is the first Magnetic Fields record in well over a decade which doesn't possess a clear theme, though in practise it's clear that Merritt's attitude has hardly shifted. At a mere 35 minutes, this is a markedly concise record, without a single track reaching the three minute mark. It's a feature which ensures that none of these songs outstay their welcome, but on too many occasions you get the impression that they've been cut-off in the interests of brevity, when in reality they could well benefit from a level of expansion. It's true that Merritt and his band are among the best in the business at delivering short and sharp indie pop gems, but with the creative freedom afforded by the return of synths to their pallet, it's difficult to avoid feeling that with further application this record could have been so much more.

However, what's done is done, and for what it's worth, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea does ultimately stand as yet another thoroughly likeable Magnetic Fields offering. As with the majority of their catalogue, it's the highlights which make it a worthwhile exercise, and throughout its course they're in no short supply. Undoubtedly the jewel in the crown is 'Andrew In Drag,' the lead single which displays is spades practically everything that one could possibly want from a Stephen Merritt composition. Striking a pitch perfect balance between his lovelorn lyricism and typically quirky sense of humour, it's a song which is touching, disturbing and hilarious all in one, and although the record has other excellent moments it truly stands out as a beacon of awkward, homoerotic light. Elsewhere, 'Your Girlfriend's Face' makes full use of the returning synths, positively sizzling with sex despite its good intentions, while 'My Husband's Pied-A-Terre' holds arguably the most potent vocal hook on offer, with Claudia Gonson making the utmost of her admittedly limited vocal abilities.

Although these are particularly successful examples of Merritt's songcraft, what's arguably even more pleasing is the fact that there's not a single number among the 15 which doesn't satisfy in some capacity. That's not to say that it's a particularly consistent record - the aforementioned condensation undermines it in that respect - but its vibrancy ensure that there's never a dull moment, something which can't be said for any of its immediate predecessors. As such, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea stands as a surprisingly refreshing listen from a band who are relishing in their new found liberty - despite their apparent reluctance to embrace it.



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user ratings (49)
Chart.
2.9
good
other reviews of this album
robin EMERITUS (4)
silly, but quite serious....


Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 14th 2012


7358 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also posted at http://www.muzikdizcovery.com/

I assumed that this would have a review by now..

robin
Emeritus
March 14th 2012


4249 Comments


great review man, good to see you about. gonna do mine soon but i don't really have the words for it yet. really do like this album a lot though.

i still hold the belief that the 2 minutes is greater than 3 minutes rule on this album is its own motif. but i understand that it isn't officially declared in the album title or anything.

AggravatedYeti
March 14th 2012


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

As it happens, this 10th studio album is the first Magnetic Fields record in well over a decade which doesn't possess a clear theme


I was under the impression this album was a collection of 15 songs pertaining to particularly complicated romantic situations.

think 69 Love Songs cut down to focus on the stress and dedication (or lack thereof) we put into "Love" in all its variants.

AggravatedYeti
March 14th 2012


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

great review tho Ali. We have very similar views on this.



ohfoxxxycole
March 14th 2012


4353 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

quick!

ohfoxxxycole
March 15th 2012


4353 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

i l o v e quick

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2012


23909 Comments


sweet review man, this needs a feature. pretty weird that The Magnetic Fields aren't more popular around here. I mean I've only heard 69 Love Songs but what an album! I need to check out more or their stuff for sure, I'll start with this when I can get it. but yeah, pos.

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2012


7358 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks a lot guys.

@Yeti: There's no declared theme as far as I'm aware (Robin's comment would seem to support that), but obviously most if not all of the songs revolve around that theme.

@Aids: Yeah they need more exposure here, there are plenty of users here that would love 69 Love Songs. As I said a lot of theie stuff is pretty inconsistent but they all have their gems, this is a pretty good place to go next.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
March 15th 2012


10613 Comments


If you don't get promoted at some point I'm going to throw a fit

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2012


7358 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm usually completely oblivious when places are up for grabs haha

robin
Emeritus
March 15th 2012


4249 Comments


this is a pretty interesting argument-- http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/magnetic-fields-love-bottom-sea

i don't agree with it (i don't think this album is supposed to be comic as its first move), but yeah. interesting.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2012


7358 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, other than Andrew In Drag I don't detect any real emphasis on the humour here, and a lot of what they call 'immaturity' is what appeals to me about The Magnetic Fields.

AggravatedYeti
March 15th 2012


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm pretty sure Merritt has come out and said his theme for the record was exactly what I said.

Return to synths, study of tough-love.

in any event homie at TmT apparently never quite got the Mag Fields memo since 69 Love Songs they've been quite intentionally naive. Or "immature."



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