CD Distortion [Magnetic Fields] (CD 1148658),
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Distortion [Magnetic Fields]
2. California Girls
3. Old Fools
4. Xavier Says
5. Mr. Mistletoe
6. Please Stop Dancing
7. Drive on, Driver
8. Too Drunk to Dream
9. Till the Bitter End
10. I'll Dream Alone
11. Nun's Litany, The
12. Zombie Boy
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 327036
Personnel: Shirley Simms (vocals); John Woo (guitar); Sam Davol (cello); Daniel Handler (accordion); Claudia Gonson (piano, Farfisa, drums, background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Tom Rogers; Stephin Merritt; Charles Newman.
Recording information: Mother West, NY.
Photographer: Marcelo Krasilcic.
From the beginning, every Magnetic Fields album has had a specific musical or thematic concept: for example, 1991's DISTANT PLASTIC TREES was a tribute to synth minimalists Young Marble Giants, 1994's THE CHARM OF THE HIGHWAY STRIP was influenced by country-music road songs, and of course 1999's 69 LOVE SONGS was self-explanatory. DISTORTION, as the title suggests, is a glorious mess of feedback, surface noise, and other forms of distortion that sounds like a throwback to singer-songwriter and mastermind Stephin Merritt's indie-rock roots, before his later incarnation as a generational answer to Irving Berlin's pop classicism. The songs themselves are highly reminiscent of the early Magnetic Fields; "California Girls" and "Old Fools" in particular sound like they would have fit nicely on any of the group's early records. However, the staticky howl of the production, more in keeping with the likes of My Bloody Valentine or even Sonic Youth, might surprise old fans at first. Stephin Merritt has never made an album like DISTORTION before, and given his track record, he likely never will again.
Rolling Stone (p.61) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "DISTORTION has an indelible identity. It rocks, in this case a meaningful, temporary departure. Its unmelded sonic gestalt suits its thematic disquiet."
Rolling Stone (p.91) - Ranked #25 in Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums Of 2008 -- "[E]voking old AM-radio tunes remixed by a mad genius."
Spin (p.100) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "The creeping B-movie love song 'Zombie Boy' benefits from the background noise, and 'Too Drunk to Dream' has fun twisting the Beach Boys' familiar, sunny vibe with squeals and screeches."
Entertainment Weekly (p.83) - "[B]oth wintry and lush, buoyant and black-hearted....Shot through with jangling boy-girl harmonies..." -- Grade: A-
Uncut (p.84) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "DISTORTION at its best is beguiling and quietly devastating."
CMJ - "DISTORTION's Jesus And Mary Chain fixation adds icy muscle to Merritt's downy, sad melodies."
Q (Magazine) (p.99) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "With collaborator Shirley Simms splitting vocals with Merritt, there is plenty to enjoy..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.108) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "It's faux-naif orch-pop that crashes and thunders. Merritt being Merritt, the work also packs plenty of sardonic wit..."
Blender (Magazine) (p.99) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Every instrument here distorts, giving tearjerkers like 'I'll Dream Alone' complementary grit."
Harp (magazine) (p.93) - "Merritt takes on the crushingly forlorn balladry of 'Mr. Mistletoe' and the cool aching romanticism of 'Too Drunk To Dream.' Exquisite."
Clash (magazine) (p.106) - "Miniature masterpieces such as 'California Girls' and 'Drive On, Driver' exhibit the type of feisty flamboyance in the face of unrequited devotion that will be instantly familiar to all followers of songwriter Stephin Merritt's beautifully crafted melancholia..."
The Word (magazine) - "The idea of enveloping everything from guitar to piano to cello in clouds of feedback and fuzz is both unexpected and remarkably convincing."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.94) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "'Too Drunk To Dream' deploys Stephen Merritt's lugubrious-hilarious baritone to great emotive effect..."
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