Neutral Milk Hotel: inspirers of love, adoration and a proprietary sense of ownership in fanatical fans
The American indie icons are touring following a reunion once thought hopelessly unlikely
Seek word online of the once-unlikely reunion of American heroes of 90s indie Neutral Milk Hotel and you might trip across an article on Salon entitled, somewhat melodramatically, ‘You ruined Neutral Milk Hotel: Nostalgia, millennials and the return of Jeff Mangum’. It’s an interesting read, at once impassioned and completely immersed in the quirky and distinctive indie pop of Mangum’s janglesome troubadours, but also tear-stained enough to describe the experience of going to see Mangum as both ‘elating and harrowing’, the latter because they no longer exist as just perfect memories.
They’re that kind of band, Neutral Milk Hotel, or rather they were back in their first incarnation – the sort which inspired love, adoration and a proprietary sense of ownership from the fans which borders on the fanatical. Well-received in the right circles and commercially no great shakes at the time, 1998’s second album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has muscled its way into the time-honoured critical canon over the last decade. Perhaps ‘muscled’ isn’t the right word. This isn’t tough music. Floated into the critical canon on the back of a dreamy sound which mixed lo-fi guitars, Mangum’s wry, raw lyricism, and a bed of theremins and brass sections.
It’s one of those records which is ripe for discovery after the fact (particularly following a UK rerelease on Domino in 2005), a contemporary in era and style of Pavement and Sparklehorse which informed Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, bearing a maturity and style which endures beyond the influences of its time. And if you didn’t listen to them first time out, don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for newcomers to get involved, either here or on their return to Edinburgh in August.
Barrowland, Glasgow, Mon 19 May.
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea- Neutral Milk Hotel
Neutral Milk Hotel
Reformed experimental indie rockers from Athens, Georgia who became cult favourites in their absence.