The Magnetic Fields
Realism


3.5
great

Review

by rasputin USER (201 Reviews)
January 25th, 2010 | 29 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: come and collectively scoff at musical idealism – Realism, the ultimate parody.

Realism is a strange record. It was love at first sight and divorce on the third listen; re-united after a separation but still arguing at the seventh. After squeezing it through my Merritt infected mind without rest, I’m still yet to determine how I truly feel about the Magnetic Fields’ ninth album. At times I’m astounded that Merritt still manages to procure ideas for songs, how his wit and lyrical delicacy has not floundered in almost twenty years. On the other hand, moments in Realism annoy the fuck out of me, inspiring deep in my heart an urge to hurriedly press skip. As preposterous as it may sound, perhaps this is entirely Merritt’s intention – Realism is as realistic an entity as can be fathomed. Eschewing the simplistic themes of past albums, Realism propounds thirteen songs that represent Merritt’s complete maturation, a concept based around the realistic flavour of human emotion. Now you could look at this through my eyes and consider the metaphysical properties of the record, how they’re fundamentally significant in the context of all Merritt’s work and propose a genuine parody of pop music, or you could simply see it is a Merritt making a bland album – several good songs, a few average, and a couple of real duds. Your love of the Magnetic Fields will determine whether you like this album or not. As a self-proclaimed Merritt-obsessive, even I struggled with Realism, but naturally, as with all Merritt’s work, the countless listens have undoubtedly payed off. It makes sense, and from here on in I will be assuming that any and all interpretations of the record have passed through a similarly rigorous dissection.

Opener ‘You Must Be Out of Your Mind’ is easily one of the best tracks Merritt has ever written, and immediately throws the album to light with its dry humour and subtle malice. Its appeal is spontaneous, something which is in stark contrast to the album overall – apart from odd tracks such as ‘Seduced and Abandoned’, the majority of the record needs time to sink in and flourish. The chirpy ‘We Are Having a Hootenanny’ comes in third after two excellent songs, and it is possibly the worst Magnetic Fields song I have ever heard. It’s indubitably grown on me, and my feelings of vehemence towards its country-inspired everyone-in-the-world-is-happy aesthetic took many a listen to subside. I still hate the song, but with the intention of this review in my mind I’m able to appreciate it in the wider context of Realism. What really defines this ninth Magnetic Fields recording is the disparate energy between its songs – while this feeling has existed on all of Merritt’s albums, Realism takes it to the point that songs are so different, those who love some are likely to hate others. This creates a contrasting atmosphere with the whole record in mind, and ultimately a musical representation of what ‘realism’ may really mean.

What is disappointing about Realism however, is the prevalence of ineffectual lyrics – while Merritt thrives on both simple and poignant songs, the simplicity on many of Realism’s tracks can be overwhelming, almost defeating the poignancy Merritt so often achieves with no effort whatsoever. Needless to say, I know that as I continue to unravel Realism beyond what I needed to for the sake of this review, more and more solace will be found between the album’s beginning and end. As a collection of lo-fi pop songs, Realism may certainly seem more insipid than it is (not that I think it is). The album harkens back to Merritt’s earlier albums with tracks like ‘Interlude’, and constantly drives an organic atmosphere throughout its playing time – this latter point not needing further elaboration in respect to the album’s ‘realistic’ concept. While it may seem that this is Merritt wallowing in the shallows after declining from the peak that was 69 Love Songs, Realism is just as significant as both Distortion and i. It certainly is not an album that makes an appropriate introduction to the Magnetic Fields, and it does need a particular degree of determination on behalf of the listener, but it still is a testament to the fact that Merritt simply cannot make a bad record. It’s unfortunate that the album will be underappreciated by fans and new listeners alike, but Realism marks the natural direction Merritt has taken and probably will continue to take with his music, a development that is incorporated into the Magnetic Fields flux and remains ever-changing, ever-guiding and ever so brilliant. Realism is effectively the ultimate parody – where the idealism of pop music is an inescapable characteristic, Merritt proves time and again throughout his musical career that he abides by no pop guideline, saucing witty realisms in every lyric he pens. Realism is the progression of this fundamental aspect of Merritt’s music into conceptual form, an album that fully embodies his caricature of pop music. With lyrics like his, the satirical standing of the album cannot be underestimated.

You want what you turned off turned on.
You call it sunset now it's dawn.

You can't go round just saying stuff,
because it's pretty.
And I no longer drink enough,
to think you're witty

If you think you can leave the past behind,
you must be out of your mind.
You think you can simply press rewind,
you must be out of your mind.




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user ratings (55)
Chart.
3.1
good
other reviews of this album
robin EMERITUS (5)
we are having a hootenanny now....

Bitchfork (2.5)
Realism - a disappointing end to an otherwise well-executed trilogy....


Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2010


15558 Comments


awesome fucking review, seriously. very interesting take on the album. magnetic fields own(s?)

rasputin
January 25th 2010


14956 Comments


thanks

Ponton
Emeritus
January 25th 2010


6137 Comments


Very nice review. Pos.

Who negged this?

Digging: Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2010


15558 Comments


negged already, thats pretyt cool

rasputin
January 25th 2010


14956 Comments


negged already, thats pretyt cool


realism

jingledeath
January 25th 2010


7101 Comments


excellent, will be giving this another listen soon

robin
Emeritus
January 25th 2010


4430 Comments


your review rules, would review this but not gonna bother trying to better your take on it. however i love 'we are having a hootenanny'

edit: my take on the album is kind of different from yours in that i think the only statement to the album is that he isnt making a statement, even if he is playing at his own cynicism still. but yours sounds less silly :p

SeaAnemone
January 25th 2010


21407 Comments


I need to listen to 69 first shouldn't I?

rasputin
January 25th 2010


14956 Comments


I need to listen to 69 first shouldn't I?

yeah, or Holiday. not this first.

Buccaneer
January 25th 2010


733 Comments


I was reccomended 69 Love Songs by a friend, but after realising the length, i was instantly put off. I might check it out anyways now, it seems I am missing something special...

Oh, and great review man

robin
Emeritus
January 25th 2010


4430 Comments


get it

BumpyourBump
January 25th 2010


143 Comments


"negged already, thats pretyt cool"

posd for great review

more realism

Kiran
Emeritus
January 25th 2010


6021 Comments


baffled at how this has 2 negs, great review. i really like 69 love songs and distortion and a friend is really pushing the charm of the highway strip on me, so i'm getting into this band more and more lately.

joshuatree
Emeritus
January 25th 2010


3741 Comments


really good review, i've only listened to this in full once but i reeeally didnt like it

robin
Emeritus
January 25th 2010


4430 Comments


i thought that i hated it at first (but i know you'll change your mind anyway)

Wizard
January 25th 2010


20128 Comments


Review is well done. Are you reviewing their entire discography?

rasputin
January 25th 2010


14956 Comments


yeah, I plan to, Karl.

Glomp
January 25th 2010


81 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I agree with your rating. The Dada Polka and You Must Be Out of Your Mind are great songs but there are some tracks on here that just bother me.

rasputin
January 25th 2010


14956 Comments


however i love 'we are having a hootenanny'

I couldn't stand it at first but it's definitely grown on me

baffled at how this has 2 negs, great review. i really like 69 love songs and distortion and a friend is really pushing the charm of the highway strip on me, so i'm getting into this band more and more lately.

if you like those two, you won't go wrong with any of their discography


really good review, i've only listened to this in full once but i reeeally didnt like it

give it a few more tries dude, i didn't think it was good on the first listen either (except for the first song)

I agree with your rating. The Dada Polka and You Must Be Out of Your Mind are great songs but there are some tracks on here that just bother me.

yeah that was the reason it got a 3.5 rather than a 4. i still think the album is really good though.

Piglet
January 26th 2010


7447 Comments


come and collectively scoff at musical idealism – Realism, the ultimate parody.

Is the lack of capital supposed to be there?



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