Neutral Milk Hotel – Everything Is

Hey! I’m Myles and I do record reviews around here. Sometimes people ask me, they say, “Hey Myles, who’d you blow to get THAT gig?” and I tell them: “Anderson Cooper.” That’s also why I drink so much.

You see, people like you and me, us normal folks, we have to work and work to get our daily bread, but people like Jeff Man Gum, all they have to do is record a few seconds of their guitarists fiddling around with synthesizers and next thing you know they’re writing concept albums about the time they skullfucked Henry Rollins at an AC/DC show. Or was it Jimmy Rollins, third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies? Either way you’re a prick. All I want to do is play with shells and you wouldn’t let me, you had to make me cry and then you laughed at me for crying. Thanks, Neutral Milk Hotel.

This is just an EP! It’s not that good! Aldershot? That’s a terrible name for a city! It sounds like a kind of pellet that would be used to shoot birds, probably a pellet with low mass and therefore high velocity, and I don’t even agree with hunting (I mean morally). That’s not fair. How can you say that to me? I’m your own flesh and blood! I remember a story I read when I was younger, perhaps or eleven years ago, perhaps a few more, there was a story called, I believe, “Gramma” (though I might be wrongly interpolating the title of a Stephen King story into my memory – you know how those crazy synapses work) that was part of a compilation of vaguely sci-fi-ish “horror” stories. These stories weren’t actually very good or scary, even as a kid I didn’t find them scary, or wouldn’t have had I been really little, or even all that sci-fi-ish. I think the first one was called “Ptolemy,” and it was about a nerdy boy named “Buford” (nicknamed “Ford”) that got close to a popular girl then found she had a time machine thing in her basement (naturally only nerdy boy understood it), then she set herself 24 hours forward to the future, only to find that she was in outer space due to the natural rapid motion of the planet  and solar system and galaxy. Another was called “Freeze Tag,” and it was about an unpopular kid who is always It at tag, who gets really mad at the constant teasing of his peers and starts actually turning them to ice (scaaary). Eventually he tags everyone, lastly the big bully, who falls to the ground and shatters as the final recess bell sounds. That sort of thing!

Anyway, this “Gramma” or -ish story, in it this kid’s grandma, who has rapidly become increasingly senile of late, starts seeing a day into the future! Oh noes! So the family thinks she’s gone crazy, see, and openly talks about putting her in a home in front of her. Only the day before the family was also around her (coincidentally!) and she started yelling at them for talking about putting her in a sanitorium! And one of the things she yells, if not she main thing she yells, is “You can’t do this to me! I’m your own flesh and blood!” And there’s this picture of a plump, irate 60-ish woman with surprisingly non-frazzled hair screaming with an incredibly hurt and irate look on her face. And that’s why I said those sentences earlier, some story I read once when I was like eleven. In case you’re wondering, at the end of the story there’s a huge rainstorm, and she starts talking about a flood, then gurgles and drowns, and the kid slowly realizes whattagwan, natch, and tries to tell his family that the river will overflow and drown them, but naturally his doting mother and stern father don’t believe him, so he packs up and leaves in the middle of the night, leaving his family to die. His life as a miserable addict orphan with severe abandonment issues isn’t exactly implied but you know it’s coming.

What’s it to this EP? Not much, actually. This is an embarrassing segue. But this EP isn’t too great! Four songs, all fuzzy and lo-fi (the notes don’t exactly bend and reach above the trees, if you itch what I’m scratching), and only one of them is any good. The title track is badly produced mid-90s alt-rock (stick a squealing pig in and thirty two guitar tracks on it and it could practically be a Smashing Pumpkins song) that doesn’t have the decency to get existential (the “Everything Is” refers to “everything is beautiful here” – lay off the drugs, drug drug druggy! Then there’s the uncatchy, go-nowherey “Snow Song Pt. 1” that nobody cares about, then there’s “Aunt Eggma Blowtorch,” a five-minute sound collage. Sound collages don’t really yank my crack, even if they’re kinda fun – whee, six discordant tappy notes on an out of tune piano! Then a kid talking about things he find on the beach! Then there’s some accordion sounds and two different drum beats! Et cetera, my friends, et cet er. A. The only real reason to get this is the Ab-Fab “Tuesday Moon,” a fuzzy (in the cute sense) and fuzzy (in the production sense) love song with nonsensical lyrics (“Your love is like a building reaching up towards the sky / And I just want to climb your tower / See you dressed like apple pie / Oh I’ll love you on a Tuesday / Oh I’ll love you on a Tuesday moon”) and a great distorted catchy riff, an aspect of NMH that went  somewhat unrecognized in their much-loved ramblings about Anne Frank and sad songs later on.

Also, there are a lot of sound snippets (these songs were clipped from earlier demo tapes and made comparatively accessible), not even counting the sound collage that is the EPs longest track. The only really good one is the little kid dream description at the start of “Tuesday Moon,” the only really good song, so everything works out! Not that the other songs are bad, just nothing worth conferring special attention on.

Say, that Gramma story reminds me of a fun joke to play at a party. You have to wait for someone to start telling a joke that you’ve heard before. Now, when whoever starts telling it, say at least once that you haven’t heard it before. Then, about thirty seconds before they say the punchline, act like you’re thirty seconds in the future and they they just finished the joke and you just heard  it for the first time: laugh uproariously, ruin the punchline for everyone else by saying (for example) “HAHAHA! THE DOG IS NAMED CHUNKS! HAHAHA! GOOD JOKE” and slap them on the shoulder. Then walk away before anyone knows what to make of you. Probably works best with people who aren’t actually your friends. Good joke, eh?

6/10

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