Review Summary: She will live forever, all goes on and on and onTurning Back the Clock: 15 Years Back
The initial mixed reactions to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
is one of music’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Back in the good ol' 1990s, negative reviews for this album were everywhere. How could critics trash such a masterpiece with words like “thin-blooded, woolgathering fluff”? Neutral Milk Hotel’s entire legacy is based on this one classic record, but reviewers had the audacity to vilify it as the work of a mental crackpot. None of this made any sense.
But as I think more and more about it, all of this becomes clear to me now. Taken at face value, there’s a lot to hate about this record. Nasally vocals and simple acoustic strumming would hardly make a good album, much less one of the greatest albums of all time. Yet In the Aeroplane in the Sea
is so flawless in its execution; from every Anne Frank reference that comes out of Jeff Mangum’s throat to his exemplary guitarwork, everything flows perfectly into each other. Whether it’s the contrasting emotion between the three-part “The King of Carrot Flowers” or the heartfelt and tear-jerking closer “Two Headed Boy, Part 2”, Mangum turns his simple little acoustic guitar into a tool of catharsis and sentiment. And for that, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
deserves its place in music history as a classic album.
15 Years Since
What impact did this album have when it first came out?
In the days following In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
’s release, critical response was mostly mixed. Some reviewers felt that it was filled with emotion and dark imagery, while others thrashed Mangum’s whiny vocals and basic instrumentation. An equal amount of critics also thought that the record had its highlights, but was too eccentric to overcome its weaknesses.
Yet now, fifteen years after it came out, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
is lauded and acclaimed for its lyrical genius, captivating melodies and the sheer amount of emotion in Mangum’s nasally voice. All of the praise that this album gets is justified; it truly is a magnificent record.
What role does this album play in the band’s discography?
Neutral Milk Hotel truly had a short career; they released two studio albums over a span of three years and promptly broke up afterwards. The band’s first record, On Avery Island
, isn’t a bad one by any means, but compared to Aeroplane
, it’s leagues behind. This was the band’s final album (they split following its mixed reception), and they certainly went out with a bang. Rarely can a band get everything right on its last record, but they were able to exit with their legacy defined by this album.
When people think of Neutral Milk Hotel, their thoughts immediately flow to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
. Forget about On Avery Island
, that isn’t what this band is known for. This is their signature album, and will always remain that throughout time. I'd rather these guys never make another album again than to have them tarnish their legacy with a mediocre record. Their chances of topping In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
with something bigger and better is around 0.0000000000000001%. This album is what made this band known; it introduced their name to legions of fans, eager to listen to one of the best records of all time.
How does the album live up fifteen years later?
It’s been fifteen years since In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, and yet it still manages to sound fresh with every listen. Every time I take this out for a spin, it struggles to show its age. This truly is a timeless album; Jeff Mangum’s passion and masterful strumming still sounds current. When he cries out "But now we must pick up every piece of the life we used to love" on "Holland, 1945", I can feel Mangum's connection to the story of Anne Frank's life. The lyricism he uses is so awe-inspiring and glorious that looking up their deeper meanings is inevitable.
One of my favorite closers of all time is here, and no, I'm not talking about Mariano Rivera. "Two-Headed Boy, Part 2" is the epitome of why this album has withstood the test of time. Mangum's melancholy yearning is filled to the brim with pure emotion, and lines like "God is a place where some holy spectacle lies, and when we break we'll wait for our miracle / God is a place you will wait for the rest of your life" choke me up with sadness every time I listen to it.
In 2013, we look at In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
as a modern classic, an album that has changed the lives of many due to its magnificent structure and instrumentation. However, it's still important to realize that fifteen years ago, this was not the case. This record, like Pinkerton
, is a perfect example of how opinion can change through time. It's the true definition of a cult classic, and it took a while, but it finally got the recognition it deserved. What we call "complete and utter bull***" today may soon be known as the next Sgt. Pepper's
. Of course, the chances of that are slim, but hey, if it could happen to this album, who's to say history won't repeat itself?