The Magnetic Fields – Realism

Opener “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind” is classic Magnetic Fields! It’s a clever non-love song that mixes a twangy banjo and swooping violin line into a fine pop song, and dem lyrics: “You think I’ll run not walk to you / Why would I want to talk to you / I want you crawling back to me / Down on your knees, yeah / Like an appendectomy sans anesthesia” and “You can’t go ’round just saying stuff because it’s pretty / And I no longer drink enough to think you’re witty”? Cutting yet amusing, charming yet pointed, and perfect for Stephin Merritt’s matter-of-fact delivery. It’s just about a perfect little song; a folk song Magnetic Fields up into greatness.
And I hope you enjoyed the big ol’ boner that song gave you, because that’s it for this stupid release. The rest is a bunch of childlike folk song crap that Peter Pansies around singing about a bunch of dolls having a tea party and having a hootenanny (which sounds like the lamest hootenanny ever) and Christmas trees and other dumb stuff, all in thrall to the idea of a self-conscious devotion to making non-rock music. Also there’s an interlude let by harp.
This album is terrible. Half of it sounds like a bunch of fake happy songs for isolated manchildren who want to watch clowns dance and eat cotton candy ice cream, made by a bunch of enslaved adults that have to keep smiling under penalty of lashing. The other half is just a bunch of boring slow croony songs. And even when it tries to be somewhat interesting it’s the same children’s melodies, just applied to concepts like “dance dance the Dada polka”-ing or being “seduced and abandoned,” which, last I checked, is creepy when sung in the way one would sing about Mary’s little lamb.
Early Magnetic Fields might not have always shaved my balls due to being all cheap synths – I didn’t think it went too well with the cerebral lyrics and made the (often brilliant) melodies hard to pick out, but here the problem is firmly with the songs. Sober this album is derivative and ugly, shit-faced it’s fucking boring. Who in their right mind would ever play past track 1 more than once to listen, and twice to make sure it was a shitty as previously thought?
But that first track…it’s a doozie! Okay, the closer “From A Sinking Boat” is kinda neat too, because it’s a bunch of atmospheric strings and tipsy sitar instead of pretending to be cheerful. But I have nothing else that’s nice to say.

3 / 10

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