Stephin Merritt – Obscurities

Credited to Stephin Merritt, though anyone who says they know him as anything other than the Magnetic Fields guy are probably lying, this is a compilation of B-sides and outtakes and early versions, the kind that everyone has to put out at least once per career to prove that they aren’t great judges of song quality.
Did you know: being in requited love is far preferable to being in unrequited love? If you do, then you get the point of nearly every Magnetic Fields song. No matter how creative Stephin is at telling that story – and he is very creative and clever – it gets a bit tiresome. Everything on here, like much of the rest of the catalogue, is allergic to openly talking about expression, or world events, or opinions other than love = good. Horse apples!
This being an oddity collection helps this album by not having a conceit, like most Magnetic Fields albums, so that you can hear an acoustic nicety next to an early cheap synth number. Combined with a few early versions of album highlights and it sounds like an album recorded by a normal witty, eclectic, morose baritone guy.
The songs done with occasional band The 6ths and the cheesy soundtrack work are boring, but the rest of the MF songs are pretty golden. “I Don’t Believe You” is better as a faster-paced pop song (and I love the first second where Merritt is slightly too slow to join his backing vocalists), and “Take Ecstacy WIth Me” is even more touching slash fun with a warm keyboard line and female vocalist. There’s two early B-sides that would’ve improved their albums (including a hilariously dystopian-sounding “fun at the beach” thing), and if the cleverness is toned down a bit, it’s a B-sides collection! Plus, it’s the Magnetic Fields, and it therefore beats the new Regina Spektor album. Merritt’s bathos beats most other peoples’ pathos.

7 / 10

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