thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums,
the music and medicine you needed for comforting.
so make all your fat fleshy fingers to moving,
and pluck all your silly strings, bend all your notes for me.
soft silly music is meaningful, magical,
the movements were beautiful, all in your ovaries.
yeah, that’s right. complicated, weird, eloquent, dark, and… awesome. that’s Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel from “Oh Comely”.
i first came across Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Engine” in 2001 while scouring the then much shallower waters of the internet for new independent music. it was not new (their most ‘popular’ album, In the Aeroplane over the Sea, was released in 1998) but it was different from anything i had ever heard. i fell in love with Jeff Mangum’s wailing croon.
Neutral Milk Hotel was one of the bands of the Elephant 6 Collective (best known for NMH, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, Apples in Stereo) out of Athens, GA. the Elephant 6 Collective are known as intellectual and musical idealists. this came through in their strange, distortion-filled experimental folk rock. between 1992 and 1998, they recorded 3 full-length albums and 1 EP before going on permanent hiatus. in 2001, Mangum released a live show from before the band’s demise, an album called Live at Jittery Joe’s, to quell the eBay fever that was mounting: there were many bootlegs of NMH shows that were being auctioned at ridiculous prices. the video above (*love* the saw…) was made by filmographer, Lance Bangs, who recorded Live at Jittery Joe‘s as well.
since the band’s “hiatus”, Jeff has played few shows, cropping up only every once in a while to play with fellow musicians, much to the dismay of the large indie cult following that Jeff and NMH have developed. he gained a reputation of being ‘the reclusive artist’ over the years, but 2011 saw him out in the world performing once again. he played several dates in 2011, as well as a surprise performance in Zucotti Park during Occupy Wall Street.
this week, Jeff has launched a full-on tour of North America, the UK and Spain, including both weekends of Coachella and a gig as curator and performer at All Tomorrow’s Parties in Minehead UK. seems 2012 is gonna be a big year for Mangum!
i’m hoping to make it to one of the 4 shows in Seattle and Portland in april: you’ll be the first to hear a review if i do.
- Jeff Mangum Adds West Coast Tour Dates (stereogum.com)
- Jeff Mangum, Andrew Bird…Graduation? (timesunion.com)
- Music Scavenger Says: Neutral Milk Hotel (wordsandothertragedies.wordpress.com)