Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Another musical note

Some time ago I purchased CD 1 of the 3-CD "69 Love Songs" by the Magnetic Fields (aka NYC songwriter Stephin Merritt plus associated musicians). It didn't quite take, but earlier this year I purchased their/his latest, "Distortion," which is a stylistic homage to the Jesus and Mary Chain that I preferred to the original. A fave on this new record is the hilarious "California Girls," which has a slightly different viewpoint than the Beach Boys song of that name. (Fitting into the concept here because J & MC were in some ways a Beach Boys homage with static and electronic distortion layered on top.) Sample lyrics: "Looking down your perfect noses at me and my kind / Did you really think that we won't mind? ... You will hear me say, as the pavement whirls / I hate California girls." [Sung by a woman so that it conveys jealousy rather than misogyny.]

Anyway, this led me to try 69 Love Songs, Part 1 again, and this time I liked it enough to spring for the last 2 volumes and 46 tracks, which I am now eagerly awaiting.

Robert Christgau aptly remarked of 69 Love Songs that to complain that it doesn't sound sincere is like complaining about a great jazz musician that he plays too many notes. That's what Merritt is selling. The album is a review / pastiche / homage / satire / compendium / commentary concerning love songs (as opposed to love) in all sorts of genres, with what are often astonishingly clever and witty lyrics - Noel Coward-level at times although with a different sensibility.

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