63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful discovery
I stumbled across this recently. I have to admit that like most people this one had completely passed me by. This is an exceptional album. Utterly exceptional. I can honestly say that this must be one of the best albums I've ever heard. Just such a shame that it has taken so long to get to hear it. How Jeff Mangum didn't make it big I don't know (maybe the bands...
Published on 16 Sept. 2006 by Mike J. Wheeler
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Different View
I hate to be the one who goes against the grain on this - but I feel slightly disappointed by this one. I bought this album off the strength of the reviews alone as I have done with many others. I just feel it has been over-hyped - some reviews speak of this being `contender for the best album in the world ever' 'Close to perfection'- very strong words...really does...
Published on 17 May 2007 by D. Thompson
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the notes all bend and reach above the trees.,
As another reviewer previously noted... In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is a loose concept album, seemingly focusing on the era surrounding World War II, and inspired by the diary of Anne Frank. It's also a deeply personal and heartfelt album, one that strings together bizarre and often dreamlike lyrics that tend to focus on everything from quarrelling couples to murdered soldiers, with sidelines in funeral processions, executions, genocide and lonely side-show acts. It's an album that begins with an ode to The King Of Carrot Flowers, takes a trip in an aeroplane high above the sea, traverses through Holland 1945, and eventually climaxes with the last word of a reoccurring character... and the most heartbreaking song about unrequited love ever written.
I only heard the record for the first time in early 2005, but it's already one of my top three albums of all time, with Jeff Mangum's acoustic based tales of woe eventually working their way into my subconscious and grabbing hold of my imagination following numerous late-night listening sessions. It's an album that demands attention from the listener... not one to be raped and pillaged for the benefit of your iPod, or played in the background during dinner parties for your friends. You have to work at these songs, picking through the seemingly random stream-of-conscious lyrics, whilst somehow finding yourself entranced by the simple and repetitive strumming and occasional bursts of horns, pianos and other wild instrumental touches like organs, tape effects and singing saws.
The first song, King of Carrot Flowers Pt 1 is the easiest song to like on the first listen, with Mangum tapping into a hazy sense of monochromatic nostalgia, as he intones the opening line "when you were young you were the king of carrot flowers, and how you built a tower tumbling through the trees". The rest of the song continues that sense of looking back, with Mangum peppering his lyrics with childlike evocations, as a sweet harmonium counter-melody comes in to jar against the switch into darker lyrical territory, and we start to see the emergence of something much more sinister. At first, these lyrics seem absolutely random and completely indecipherable, but really, the more we listen to the album, the more we take from it. Everyone who listens to it will have their own personal interpretations of what Mangum's lyrics might be pointing to... I personally see it as an ode to unrequited love, and that dangerous kind of obsession that Mangum looked at in his post-Aeroplane song "Little Birds".
The album is perfectly put together, progressing seamlessly from the strummed folk of King of Carrot Flowers Pt 1, into the minimal King of Carrot Flowers Pts 2, which opens with some subtle guitar picking and a minimal burst of organ, with Mangum's trembling shout intoning the refrain "I love you Jesus Christ!!". Like much of the album, this earnest statement seems to be inviting ridicule, but, like the idea of yearning for Anne Frank, Mangum means it, and I feel privileged to be able to share in his sense of devotion. From here, we move into Carrot Flowers Pt 3 (subtitled Up and Over), which is something close to folk-psychedelia, as a bombardment of horns and some quickly strummed guitars enter the fray and the song moves off in a direction that brings to mind the band's first album, the urgent and distorted On Avery Island.
The entire album is a joy to listen to... one that I've been playing constantly since I first got it one that I'd hope to be playing for many more decades to come. The ideology of the band and the album itself begins to become clearer with songs like In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, and, in particular, Two Headed Boy, in which the album really just becomes a showcase for Mangum and his heavily-strummed acoustic guitar. As Andy Broder states on the re-issue sleeve, the album works because of the central juxtaposition, "lyrically, complex and gruesome... musically, simple and sweetly melodic". The title track builds around four basic verse chords (with some distant background instrumentation adding atmosphere) whilst Mangum and his evocative lyrics capture our imagination. The same can be said about Two Headed Boy, in which Mangum seems to be envisioning himself as a lost and lonely side-show performer, forced to watch the world go by from the confines of a glass-jar. It's a beautiful song; like the entirety of the album it's a stark combination of words and music that builds to something truly transcendent.
This album is really too great to put into words... from the Scott Spillane composed orgy of horns and Salvation Army style rhythms that is The Fool, through to the heartbreaking ode to Anne Frank, Holland 1945 ("the only girl I ever loved / was born with roses in her eyes / until 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") and beyond that to the epic free-form ramble of Oh Comely... an eight-minute long character sketch that is probably the closest alternative-folk music ever has come to creating it's own Bohemian Rhapsody/Paranoid Android style moment of transcendence. I've not even mentioned the ghostly lament of the Communist Daughter, or the surreal, psychedelic instrumental with no name, or the defining moment for me, the gorgeous and heartbreaking Two Headed Boy Pt 2.
Here, Mangum makes himself clear... "in my dreams you're alive and you're crying / as your mouth moves in mine soft and sweet / rings of flowers round your eyes and I'll love you / for the rest of your life / in your reading". I'm not guaranteeing that you'll have as intense an experience listening to the album that I have... this record just means something to me... something greater than words could ever express.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Strange, Great Joy,
By A Customer
I've just put this album on after not owning it for about three years ...and am momentarily amazed by how I coped by not hearing it more often. Much has already been said about it but, in this album, you have a strange hybrid of different strands of music.. obviously there is an indie sensibility behind it, you have overdriven guitar, a chugginess to the acoustic guitars, mad horn breaks and such a tremendous, joyous pace to everything, topped by the mad whimsy of Jeff Mangum's vocal and lyrics that go where no lyrics have gone before. But there is a truth to the imagery he relates, borne of the conviction of his voice... in fact you won't come across this particular kind of sincerity in pop music very often, he tells stories, has visions, creates moods, evokes histories. I don't think I've heard an album opener so convinced of its own vision than 'The King of Carrot Flowers'. It is strange and beautiful to experience songs of such utter confidence, and part of what makes this record all the more pleasurable. If I have any conception of heaven it might be more than several large glasses of freezer-cold gewurtztraminer, a breezy summer day and this album played at full volume through resolutely open windows.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable excellence,
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
Any talk of Elephant 6 invariably involves references to The Beatles and The Beach Boys, so obvious is their influence upon bands such as Olivia Tremor Control and Apples In Stereo. Neutral Milk Hotel share their love of melody, harmony and experimentalism, but go off into an altogether more wonderful direction, sounding in turns like Bob Dylan or Nirvana.
Quite simply, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is a perfect album, essential and addictive. Jeff Mangum has the kind of voice that resonates so beautifully and implores so desperately that it's impossible not to be moved by his strange fairytale narratives and dark secrets. The themes that run through all the songs, and the way the sound ebbs and flows, bring you right back to the beginning once the 40 minutes of the album are over. Warning: you will listen to this on repeat play and the songs will be spinning around your head for weeks.
'Holland, 1945' and 'Ghost' are in a similar vein to the thrilling 'Song Against Sex' from On Avery Island, but with more layers of brass, more harmonies and more energy. However, the fuzz and muddy 'closet' sound of NMH's first album are largely replaced by eerie, otherworldly sounds (especially 'Communist Daughter') and stark acoustic narratives. The twin parts of 'Two-Headed Boy' and the meandering 'Oh Comely' are especially simple and affecting, weaving images and emotions like delicate tapestries.
The three parts of 'The King of Carrot Flowers' mutate from the catchy and joyous first part, through the yearning cry of "I love you Jesus Christ!" in part two, to the hurtling finale of part three, caught up in the "waves and undertow". The title track is perfect folk-pop ("How strange it is to be anything at all"). The two instrumentals, 'The Fool' and the untitled tenth track, add to the exultant but disorientating atmosphere, and the lyrics veer from impressions of digust at humanity to an unstoppable hope.
All the songs are just great, the artwork is superb, and I can't express how happy this record makes me.
BUY IT NOW.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Album,
For more details read other reviews. At first I found this album a little difficult to get into, so if you feel likewise after first listen persist with it and eventually the music will reveal itself.
Kim Cooper's book (In an aeroplane over the sea) (Part of the 33 1/3 series). Comes highly reccommended as an accompanent, providing an overview of how the album was created and the mystery surrounding the band.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The epitome of the nostalgia and sadness of lost youth,
Bit of a pretentious review title, but god, is it true. This is one of the most emotionally effective albums I've ever heard, utilizing both blistering fuzzy rock and heart-renching bare bones acoustic guitar. Mangum's voice has often been critisized, but i can honestly say it is one of the most amazingly moving and imperfectly perfect voices ever to grace music. He strains it as we all do when we are singing about something we really care about, not in the calm control of a prefessional who just has a job, and wishes to entertain. Mangum dosen't care how his voice sounds, (it actually sounds very good), he is just getting his intense emotions out. And his intense emotions are about . . . Anne Frank, a girl who died seventy years ago. In the folk epic "Oh Comley", the height of poetic genius and surley the album's centrepiece, that he wished he could "save her in some sort of time machine".
The album opens with the beautifully clean guitar cords of "The King of Carrot Flowers" a three part song which speeds through a seemingly cheerful song of partner's abuse, hulicinations, incest and lonliness (it seems cheerful because of the music, but it really isn't), which then progresses into the much malighned "I LOVE YOU JESUS CHRIST" section, and then the final part. The third part of this song is possibly the most perfect miniute of music ever to grace human ears. That is only a slight exaggeration. And the intense emotional core of this song is perfected in the highlight of the album, "Ghost". The blistering fuzz blends with Jeff Mangum's transcendent lyrics to create a song full of pure beauty, describing the ascendence of a girl, presumably Anne Frank, to heaven, a song in which includes "milk and holy water, pouring from the sky" and "the morning paper blows, into a hole where no one can escape". It is possibly the most beautiful song ever recorded, certainly in terms of an almost religious, propulsive transcendence. This album, and this song in particular, are expert at creating that flush of feeling in the cheeks.
There are some other great songs here, too. "Two Headed Boy" utilizes the acoustic guitar to full effect, creating a highly emotional ballad, whilst the title track is about as wistful and positive as this album, or any album, gets, containing the line "what a beautiful face i have found in this place". The final song, "Two Headed Boy Part 2". is the exact oppisite, and is one of the most heart-wrenchingly sad songs ever written, containing mad rambling for the most part that seems to be fighting against the end of one's life, and the sadness of its waste. It speaks of brains pouring out of the teeth, and dead ones coming back to life, only to cry. All though at first it seems to contain no reference points to the original "Two Headed Boy", apart from its name, the last thirty seconds of the song mark its return, but in a slower, more contemplative tone, ending the album with a line of infinite beauty (I won't spoil it for you). Just to say, when I first heard it, i was overcome with emotion.
So, the lead single. "Holland 1945" is a tad overrated, and is probably the most straightforward rock track on the album. It does contain some great lyrical imagery, though, such as "now she's a little boy in spain playing painos filled with flames", and I understand why its a fan favourite.
One final note: This is not just for hipsters. My sister likes it, and she has quite a narrow music taste and rejects most of my music as "too weird".
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best albums you have never heard of,
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
I am an enthusiastic fan of all sorts of music, and this must be one of my favourite cds of all time. first heard it on internet radio, bought the album and just couldnt stop listening to it. Amazingly affecting songs, great rock music. Why won't he make another record, dammit ?
Getting into it, especially due its unwarranted obscurity, it is like listening late at night to the radio and accidentally coming across a station from somewhere fabulous you have never been to and don't know how to get to. Can anyone else hear this music ? A bit florid, but the record is so moving.
If your ears are open you will love this record.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fly an aeroplane,
Jeff Mangum is the King of Carrot Flowers. Or at least, the king of his own brand of innocently psychedelic dream-rock. The second full-length album from the endearingly weird Neutral Milk Hotel is not as lo-fi as "From Avery Island," but its beauty and dreaminess are still untouched.
Steady guitar strums start off "The King of Carrot Flowers Part 1," before blossoming into the eerie, spirituality-themed "King of Carrot Flowers Part 2 & 3." Following it up the somehow inspiring "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea," the grim trumpeting of "The Fool," and the rousing folky-carnival bombast of "Holland, 1945."
Crickets, screams and a gentle guitar melody start "Communist Daughter," followed by the wailing "Oh Comely," magnificently fuzzy "Ghost," and the eerie tenth track, which doesn't have a title -- a catchy, indescribable mix of fuzz guitar and funhouse melodies. The album ends on a strong note with "Two Headed Boy Part 2," with its haunted-house opener woven out of horns, which melts away behind Mangum's final ballad.
Neutral Milk Hotel is one of those bands that will steal your heart, or send you howling from the room. There's no middle ground. It's an acid-tinged dream of spirituality, sex, chaos, rebirth and beauty, full of girls with roses in their eyes and ghosts flying over stormy cities.
The music tends to be of two types. On one hand, we have Mangum's laid-back folky ballads; they are sometimes laced with other instruments, but the core is his acoustic guitar and his off-kilter voice. And then there are the swirling panoramas of brass-band, fuzz guitar, accordians, white noise, organ and musical saw, among others. These bizarre melodies are entrancing, almost hypnotic, and the catchier ones sound like the soundtrack of a carnival.
Mangum's voice is a weird one. It isn't very good, and he can't hold the notes (his wail of "I loooove you Jeeesusss Chrrriiiisst" is outrageously funny). But it meshes into the music as if his vocals were tailor-made for it. And the lyrics are full of weird things that somehow strike a chord in the listener, as if Mangum has tapped into your strangest dreams, ranging from the childlike wonder of "King of Carrot Flowers Parts 2 & 3" to the wistful: "Now she's a little boy in Spain/Playing pianos filled with flames/On empty rings around the sun/All sing to say my dream has come..."
Full of psychedelic brass bands and folky songs about children with wings, Neutral Milk Hotel's second album is a rare, magnificent album without a single unworthy song. Beautiful, strange and wondrous.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good things come to those who wait,
Nothing worthwhile comes easy in life, and so it is with this album. If you want something jolly to listen to three times a year for a dinner party then do not buy this album.
This album has an appealing simplicity about it, but is at the same time incredibly deep and personal. It's personal to Magnum, but it can be personal to the listener if you let it, and can be more addictive than any drug you care to mention.
If you are prepared to give it a chance it will give you back so much more than you put into it.
For anyone that is seriously into proper music and want more out of your music than a catchy melody, then this is a must have for your record collection. Just don't give up on the third listen please.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING,
This review is from: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea [VINYL] (Vinyl)
i have never been any good at this type of thing. i heard this album played in a little pub and my friends were telling me how amazing it is. so i bought it of amazon it took 6 weeks to arrive. that night i played it 15 times over. i fell in love in love with it, the sheer brilliance and the passion makes this album amazing. two headed boy, "in the dark we will take of our cloths and we'll be placing fingers through the notches in you spine". brilliance
you can buy this for anyone and any song is for any occasion. and you almost desipher the songs meanings and make your own conclusion from them.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Hotel Hype & Hipsterdom: An American Classic,
There is so much critical hyperbole surrounding Jeff Mangum's most revered musical creation it seems impossible to approach In the Aeroplane Over the Sea with anything like analytic clarity; too much is bound to get lost in the best-album-ever organic hype machine of enthusiastic hipster noise. Yet surely the most pertinent question, putting aside its semantics, cultural context and fanbase for a moment, must be "is it really that great?"
This is a hard question to answer, because context is an essential part of how we receive a piece of art. Most people make judgements about one before they have actually experienced it for themselves based on the opinions of others, and since the general consensus among a certain type of music listener (i.e. one who actually knows who Neutral Milk Hotel even are) is overwhelmingly positive, that positivity is self-perpetuating.
This is a well-known process which few people admit to being party to. It makes one look like a dishonest poseur to eulogise the genius of Ingmar Bergman, only for people to discover you have not seen a single Bergman movie, but nobody is innocent of this. Everybody, on occasion, will subconsciously absorb consensus views among peer-groups, then unthinkingly reproduce them verbatim. We are social animals; it is evolutionarily beneficial we should be predisposed toward such pretenses. Far from being pathetic, it is quite human, only nobody will admit to it. That would obviously spoil the act.
Returning to Aeroplane with this in mind, then, perhaps it is possible to separate the ideas that have arisen out of hype from the ideas that seem to be a product of the album's content itself. Certainly the "greatest ever" epithet is of the former category, along with all the other wild over-exaggerations to the tune of "everyone should buy it" (patently absurd) or "if you dislike it, you have no soul" (downright supercilious), but what characteristics can we find for the latter?
Firstly, its purported "honesty" is very obviously real; this album could be nothing more than the true, uncalculated art of one mind. Jeff does not hold back for fear that his self-expression might make people uncomfortable, as it most likely does when he wails (apparently) irreligiously about how he loves Jesus, or repeatedly sings about male seed. Its certainly not a record I'd buy for my mother. Despite its simplicity, it also holds up to the standard of "well written", both in lyrical and musical terms. While the chordsheet strays rarely, if at all, from basics, there is such a depth of feeling here as to hold the candle in its stead, much as there is in the music of Joy Division or early Bob Dylan. To compliment that, Mangum has a distinctly developed authorial voice rich in its own idiosyncratic tones and preoccupations, an unmistakeable autograph of a great lyricist. The "Goldaline, my dear" passage in Oh, Comely, where he sings "feel for ourselves inside some stranger's stomach, place your body here, let your skin begin to blend itself with mine" is as heart-breaking a moment I've seen words give life to in song. Even without such lyrics, the album's structure alone is a work of maddening genius, capable of whisking you to the end of the first side before you even knew it was happening. It pulls off the rare and difficult trick of breaking tempo and tone in exactly the right moments to hold attention and simultaneously convey emotion.
And what emotion! I would be dishonest if I denied shedding the occasional tear by the unbearably sad last gasp of Two Headed Boy, Pt. II, and having opened with the King of Carrot Flowers' infectious radiation of good-feeling (ironically deployed, in fact, given the content), between the two there is conveyed a genuine range of sentiments, coloured overall by an overarching bittersweetness; happiness tinged with melancholy and sadness tinged with joy. Consummate musicianship can take a walk when one has such consummate conviction and heartfelt human warmth to take its place.
I have not touched upon Mangum's voice because it is touched upon far more often than is warranted. I grew up with punk; Jeff Mangum wailing, next to Crass or Mark E. Smith's particular brand of singing, is about as hard to stomach as a steak after a long diet. Plenty of people find his voice execrable, tuneless and sloppy, but to me it just sounds like a man who craves to make sounds with words to them, and isn't going to let mere vocal inhibition get in his way. I respect that.
There is a blog called "Nick Thinks" knocking about somewhere on the internet. Its premise is simple: a guy plays records to his aging father and records his responses. One of the records featured was this one, and I found it very interesting to note that, isolated from the adulation Aeroplane seems to command, the response of a hipster-naive, more-than-middle-aged, classical music fan was one of the most positive on the whole site. Having only heard it once, he arrived at the verge of rhapsody. It would seem its appeal goes far beyond the usually assumed lumberjack-shirt-and-glasses brigade and, perhaps, begins to knock on the door of the universal. It certainly knocks on mine.
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