Distortion

Studio Album by released in 2008

Distortion review

A new present from The Magnetic Fields

It is already the second decade that the creative work of New York collective The Magnetic Fields, in which singer and songwriter Stephin Merritt plays the key part, has been surprising with its originality. The band's every new album has a concrete idea within despite the fact that most of the songs written by Merritt are closely connected with the theme of love, both happy and not. At the same time the lyrics of The Magnetic Fields' works is always original, ironic, witty and not devoid of humor. The band members Claudia Gonson playing percussion and piano and performing some of the vocal parts, cellist Sam Davol and John Woo masterfully playing banjo and guitar assist Merritt is realizing his bold ideas, and each of their records can boast a splendid instrumental form. At the beginning of this year the team presents its fans with a new album called Distortion that pretends to be the rock album from The Magnetic Fields and has become a great continuation of the unusual band's creative path. The record has a great number of peculiarities including the contribution on a number of tracks of guest vocalist Shirley Simms who has already collaborated with Merritt before, but to appreciate all of them one should definitely listen to the album more than once.

Sophisticated combination of pop tunes and rock instruments

On the one hand even one listening is quite enough to state that Distortion is a rock album. On the other hand, it is not exactly the rock in its clear manifestation but the example of an artful usage of instruments and sound effects typical for rock music in a sophisticated combination with catchy pop tunes and witty lyrics that Stephin Merritt never gives up involving. Besides there is a noise background throughout the record occasionally interrupted by unexpected sounds whose origin is often hard to define. The album opener Three-Way, however, is the only exception here presenting a largely instrumental composition with guitar prevailing and the text consisting solely in the title of the song, but the rest of the tracks are written in the best tradition of The Magnetic Fields. A funny song California Girls is filled with an idea of killing the rich girls living in the aforementioned state, whereas a sullen and melancholic Old Fools strikes with hopelessness and some fatalism. One of the most interesting tracks on Distortion is Mr. Mistletoe, again making the listeners smile due to the funny lyrics but conquering with a beautiful and complicated melody. Shirley Simms' vocals on  Drive On, Driver makes one remember of the older albums like 69 Love Songs and The Charm Of The Highway Strip, whereas Too Drunk To Dream begins with a splendid intro with Merritt's praising the pluses of being drunk and the whole song is about the pleasure of sinking one's troubles in a good portion of alcohol. The most desperate composition devoted to the theme of a broken heart is undoubtedly I'll Dream Alone on which Stephin's vocals sound sadder than ever. Shirley Simms appears again on another not too serious song The Nun's Litany describing a nun's secret dreams of, and the album's closer Courtesans, again stunning with frank lyrics hidden under the vocalist's innocently sensual singing.

The album's name has fully justified itself

The 1999 record 69 Love Songs that brought The Magnetic Fields to major success is remained in the past, as well as the 2004 conceptual album i on which each track began with the letter I. The album of this year has turned out to be the most unexpected turn this unpredictable band could make, and the name of the album has fully justified itself. The combination of Merritt and Simms' voices and the incredible music that is hard to describe with mere words has once again proved that The Magnetic Fields always does the things its own way and amazing sound effects have risen the musicians on a higher level. Those who are have heard little or nothing of The Magnetic Fields' music Distortion is going to surprise in the least but it is worth while being patient and as soon as you are through the complexes of strange sounds and constantly present noise you are sure to open a most interesting world of Stephin Merritt. The fans on the contrary are sure to appreciate the new work and agree that Distortion has proved to be one of the most controversial and yet integral records the band has ever done and the four years of waiting for it has been really worth it.